Growing older shouldn't mean growing inactive – even in old age it is very important to remain as active as physically possible. No matter what your age or current state of health, exercising is a necessary and important part of healthy aging and as long as you are not at a high risk for injury, most types of exercise will still be suitable for seniors, especially those who are younger and / or have been physically active for most of their lives. Even seniors with physical impairments can keep active in order to remain healthy and happy.
Being inactive can cause elders to lose ground in four areas that are fundamental for staying healthy and independent: strength, balance, flexibility, and endurance. Different exercises can help elderly citizens maintain and even restore a degree of functionality in these four key areas.
There are multiple types and categories of physical exercise, each with its own benefits:
Cardiovascular: as the name indicates, cardiovascular exercises are good for your heart – they get the blood pumping and increase your heart rate
Good examples of cardio exercise: swimming, walking, light cycling, hiking, golf, water aerobics
Strength Training: improving the conditions of your muscles and bones can make daily activities easier and keep you mobile longer
Good example of strength training: tai chi, yoga, pilates, stretching often
Balance Training: exercises in this category are particularly important for seniors are they can improve muscle strength and prevent falls ; additionally, the healthier and more physically fit your body, the less severe the impact of a fall will be.
Good examples of balance training: resistance training with light weights, weight machines, resistance band stretches
Besides the commonly espoused benefits of exercise, recent studies show that seniors who remain active after the age of 70 are less likely to experience age-related declines in mental functioning. Many studies have shown a strong correlation between physical activity in old age and reduced mental impairment, but clearly it is important not just to be active but to remain active as we age.
Additionally, some studies have even shown that exercise can reverse some of the effects that aging has on the brain's capacities by creating new brain cells – research is still underway in this area, but it is possible that exercising could improve mental abilities in seniors.
The benefits of exercising extend far beyond the well-documented medical and health improvements – exercising can improve your ability to keep up with younger family members and grandchildren and can keep you more active in your community by increasing your mobility and energy level. Whatever your reason for staying active as you age, actives seniors will see varied benefits that positively impact all aspects of their life.
As with all health related concerns, consult a doctor before beginning an exercise regimen as they will be better equipped to recommend fitness routines and exercises that will suit your needs.