For many seniors, one of the biggest considerations that informs their decisions around long-term living and care is the desire to maintain their independence and autonomy. While there are a variety of factors that can affect an individual’s ability to live and function independently, physical health and mobility are arguably the most significant. Chronic illness, injury, difficulty moving around, and poor cognitive health can all undermine an individual’s ability to perform activities of daily living—not to mention compromise their quality of life.
Fortunately, there’s a simple way for seniors to take steps to protect their physical health and their independence: exercise. Regular physical activity for older adults has the power to guard against illness, injury, and cognitive decline, and in doing so, can help them continue to live on their own terms.
Exercise Can Help Prevent Falls
Falls can pose a serious threat to older adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), of the 36 million falls that occur among seniors each year, over 32,000 result in death, and one in five cause serious injuries, such as broken bones or head trauma.
In addition to making appropriate home modifications, one of the best ways older adults can reduce their risk of falling is by staying active. The benefits of exercise for the elderly include improved muscle strength, coordination, and balance, all of which can decrease the likelihood of falling.
Exercise Guards Against Injury
Older adults, especially older women, often experience a decrease in bone density as they age, a disease called osteoporosis. If left unchecked, osteoporosis can result in bones becoming weak and brittle. For seniors, this is bad news: it means that if they experience a fall, they may be more likely to experience a hip fracture or break another bone.
Fortunately, in addition to helping prevent falls in the first place, exercise can also help maintain bone strength and reduce further loss of bone density. Exercise also helps build muscle strength, which can further protect bones in the event of a fall. In particular, experts agree that weight-bearing or resistance exercises (such as walking, lifting weights, or using resistance bands) are best for strengthening bones.
Exercise Preserves Cognitive Function
We’ve written before about the myriad benefits of exercise in keeping your mind sharp during your golden years. Most notably, exercise has been linked to lower risk of dementia, and can even help slow the progression of diseases like Alzheimer’s.
Exercise Is a Protective Factor Against Disease
The prevalence of chronic disease rises sharply among older populations. In fact, according to the National Council on Aging, 80% of adults aged 65 and over have at least one chronic health condition. Among the most common conditions are high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.
When it comes to avoiding chronic disease, exercise does wonders for helping to stave off the aforementioned conditions and others. For example, physical activity can also guard against asthma and some types of cancer.
Many doctors also believe that exercise can ward off short-term illnesses like colds and flu, both through direct and indirect means. Exercise improves immunity directly by boosting circulation and flushing bacteria or other pathogens out of your lungs and airways. From an indirect perspective, physical activity is known to improve sleep and reduce anxiety, both of which can positively affect immune system functioning.
Exercise Can Alleviate Pain
Like chronic disease, the prevalence of chronic pain is also higher among older adults. Chronic pain can be caused by a number of conditions, including disease and arthritis. In fact, arthritis is one of the most common causes of disability among seniors.
While it may seem counterintuitive that moving more can reduce pain, it’s true. Studies have shown that physical activity can contribute to managing chronic pain by reducing inflammation and decreasing pain sensitivity, among other mechanisms.
Exercise for Seniors: Where To Start
In order to reap the health benefits of physical activity, the CDC recommends that older adults get at least 150 minutes of exercise each week.
Still, maintaining a fitness routine as you age is often easier said than done, particularly for people with underlying health conditions, mobility issues, pain, or other limitations. What’s more, choosing the best types of exercise for your individual needs and goals can be bewildering.
To ensure that Residents are able to exercise safely and effectively, Seabury offers a comprehensive array of fitness amenities and programs. Our facilities include a pool and spa, cardiovascular equipment, and state-of-the-art resistance and strength equipment. In addition, Seabury’s staff includes personal trainers, nutrition consultants, and group fitness instructors for Tai Chi, yoga, aquatic exercises classes, and more.
Seabury provides peaceful living opportunities for adults ages 50 and older looking for fulfilling, independent lifestyles. Our philosophy centers the physical, emotional, and spiritual wellness of
our Residents. Living options range from independent apartments and villas to cottages as well. Our continuum of care model is designed to make Residents’ lives as comfortable as possible. Your Life Plan Contract at Seabury, should you require it in the future, also includes a transition to assisted living, memory support, and nursing care services for the same monthly fee. Contact us today for more information!