Many people think that as we get older we should slow down and take it easy when it comes to fitness. But this is not true, being physically active brings countless benefits to the senior population. In an ideal world every person should be exercising at least 3 times a week for one hour, so as you age staying fit is part of your daily life. Sadly, according to AARP, 40% of people between 45 and 65 are sedentary. Older adults are the most sedentary population putting them at risk for numerous illnesses and injuries.
Some people also think that exercising can be extremely challenging at an older age and that they can even get hurt while working out, but it is the opposite. Exercising regularly does not put you at risk for injuries or illnesses, not exercising does! Inactivity and a sedentary lifestyle are great contributors to mortality and chronic illnesses.
When we talk about exercise for active older adults consistency is paramount. A daily routine and consistency is almost more important than intensity. However the level of strength and intensity are also important. It is important to have a variety of exercises, including cardio, weight training, stretching and balance as well. The World Health Organization (2010) recommends people 65 and older perform at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic exercise and two or more days of weight training or muscle strengthening each week. The key is to put an effort in your workouts and do not take it too easy, try to challenge yourself.
Let’s go over the most important benefits of exercising for older adults:
- Improves balance, coordination and flexibility. This helps prevent falls which is the main cause of broken hips.
- Helps with weight control and weight loss.
- Improves the healing process on wounds and injuries.
- Prevents diseases such as stroke, coronary and pulmonary illnesses. Lowers blood pressure, cholesterol, and helps prevent diabetes. Reduces hospitalization length of stay.
- Prevents osteoporosis and osteopenia because exercise protects against loss in bone mass.
- Improves gastrointestinal function and speeds up metabolism.
- Improves and boosts the immune system.
- Reduces the symptoms and pain of arthritis.
- Not only lowers the risk of having an inflammatory or chronic illness, but when people already experience a chronic illness, such as cancer, diabetes or multiple sclerosis, they show great overall improvement when they attend a structured fitness program.
- Increases mental capacity, cognitive function, memory and prevents dementia and Alzheimer’s. Boosts mood and self esteem. Improves depression and anxiety. Reduces stress and improves sleep.
- Increases life expectancy.
By Lisy Espindola, Certified Personal Trainer, Silver Sneakers Instructor, Certified Group Instructor