Kittle: The benefits of exercise for older adults

We all know that exercise is good for us, but as a senior it’s truly one of the best things you can do for yourself.

We all know that exercise is good for us, but as a senior it’s truly one of the best things you can do for yourself.

About 60 per cent of people over age 64 are considered sedentary.  An inactive lifestyle causes older adults to lose ground in areas that are important for staying healthy, happy and independent.

Don’t worry about exercise being too strenuous —it is actually a greater risk not to exercise.

Even moderate physical activity can improve the health of those who are frail or who have diseases that accompany aging.

Exercising regularly produces long-term benefits, and improves health for some who already have diseases and disabilities. Consider these benefits:

• Increased mental capacity. Research links physical activity with slower mental decline, and it is now known to be beneficial in preventing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

• Increased strength, cardiovascular endurance, flexibility, and range of motion.

• Enhanced immune system.

• Increased energy.

• Enriched sexuality.

• Exercise delays or prevents many diseases associated with aging.

•  Injuries take longer to heal as we age, so regular exercise by older adults may speed up the wound-healing process.

• Improved mood, quality of life, and increased sense of purpose as studies have found that previously sedentary seniors who incorporated exercise into their lifestyles not only improved physical function, but experienced psychological benefits as well.

• Increased balance and coordination, which helps prevent falls—a major cause of broken hips and other injuries that often lead to disability and loss of independence.

• Increased life expectancy.

• Improved self esteem, self-confidence  and sense of pride.

• Decreased blood pressure, stress, and insomnia.

• Assistance with weight control and improved digestion.

• Improved posture.

As we age, we must adjust to changing roles.

While some factors are unavoidable, it is possible to stave off other factors which force many older people to relinquish roles that are a meaningful part of their identity.

As an instructor of seniors’ fitness classes, I understand how important it is to have social interaction with my participants.

I am ever mindful that some of them live alone, and that my class may be the most significant social activity of their day. Here are some tips on making social connections through exercise:

Find a Buddy:  Exercising with another person can help motivate you and make your workouts more interesting.

Play a Sport:  Joining a team is a great way to meet people and have fun!

Exercise for Charity:  Bike rides, 5Ks, and other events are great fundraisers for charity. You’ll meet hundreds of people, get some exercise, and raise money for a good cause, too.

Join a Class: Group fitness classes are also a great way to meet people and add a social element to your workout.

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