Actress Helen Hayes is credited with the saying, “If you rest, you rust.” And she knew what she was talking about: The award-winning actress enjoyed a career that spanned eight decades, and lived to be almost 93 years old. She clearly understood the value of staying active.
Many older adults can benefit from taking a page from Helen Hayes’ playbook. Seniors who stay physically and mentally active as they age can certainly slow the aging process, and they can improve their cognitive function, reduce their risk of chronic illnesses and diseases, reduce their fall risk, and improve their flexibility and balance.
If you’re an older adult who’d like to get off the couch and start exercising your mind and body, read on for the benefits of exercise that may offer you a little motivation. Once you’re properly motivated to start moving, you’ll find some exercise tips to help you get active and stay that way.
Because as Helen would tell you, you definitely don’t want to rust.
12 benefits of exercise for seniors
The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention says every older adult can benefit from regular exercise. And that’s especially true for older adults with certain chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, arthritis, obesity and heart disease. As an active senior living community, Edgewood Summit offers a wide variety of wellness opportunities on our monthly calendar.
Let’s look at the many reasons why exercise is so good for you.
- Exercise can help you live longer. Regular exercise of moderate intensity, along with a healthy diet, can help you live longer and better. Research shows this applies whether you’ve exercised regularly your whole life or just started. Which proves it’s never too late to start!
- It relieves the pain and stiffness associated with arthritis. Exercise can also help you lose weight so you’re not putting as much pressure on your joints.
- Being physically active can help lower your blood pressure, your blood glucose level and your LDL cholesterol, which are all contributing factors to heart disease.
- Exercise reduces your risk of contracting a variety of types of cancer. For women who exercise regularly, studies show a 40% reduction in breast cancer risk.
- It can reduce your risk of dementia and improve your overall cognitive function. One study showed a 66% reduction in risk of dementia when older adults performed moderate-intensity exercise.
- Exercise can actually improve your sleep. When your body is tired from exercise, you’ll sleep deeper and longer, and wake up feeling more rested.
- It can improve your mental health. If you’re depressed, exercise can treat mild to moderate depression as effectively as antidepressant medication — without the side effects.
- Exercise helps relax muscles and relieve tension in your body. It also triggers the release of endorphins, chemicals in your brain that induce a sense of well-being.
- If you’re concerned about your cognitive function, exercise can improve your concentration, motivation, memory and mood. Exercise also stimulates the growth of new brain cells and helps prevent age-related decline.
- It prevents bone loss in both men and women. All older adults lose bone density as they age, though post-menopausal women lose up to 2% each year. Exercise like strength training can counteract bone loss and can actually restore bone density.
- Cardiovascular disease, colon cancer, diabetes, obesity and hypertension don’t have to be the realities of aging. Staying active can reduce the risk of chronic illnesses and diseases because exercise actually has a protective effect.
- Older adults who are at risk of falling can greatly benefit from strength training exercises, which can build stability, strength and flexibility.
Now that you know just 12 of the many benefits of exercise for older adults, you may want to become a more active adult yourself. Here are 5 tips to help you start moving and stay moving.
- Get moving with a friend. It’s easier to start and keep a habit like exercise if you have a friend to hold you accountable. For example, walking when it’s cold out isn’t fun by yourself, but with a friend, you might find the time and distance go much quicker.
- Join a fitness center with your spouse, and make losing weight a friendly competition. Again, accountability can help keep you motivated, but so can competition. If your goal is to lose 10 pounds, and your spouse has a similar goal, turn that into a friendly wager: If you lose the weight and keep it off after six months, your spouse has to make dinner every night for a month.
- Find a new exercise that you’ve never tried before. There are lots of great low-impact types of exercise that still offer significant health benefits. Among them are yoga, Tai Chi and Pilates.
- Modify an exercise you’ve always enjoyed. You may have been a runner when you were younger, but your knees just can’t handle the pounding anymore. Or you may have enjoyed cycling, but your eyesight isn’t as good as it used to be, and now biking on the street feels unsafe. That doesn’t mean you have to give up those exercises. Try running in a pool, which provides a great aerobic workout without the pounding on your joints. Or look for a paved biking trail near you that prohibits motorized vehicles.
- Look for an active senior living community that emphasizes overall wellness for your mind, body and spirit. You’ll want to choose a community like Edgewood Summit that focuses on whole-person wellness. That should include more than physical and mental health; it should also incorporate intellectual and spiritual wellness . Curious to learn more about Edgewood Summit? We can help with that, too.
Stay active and live well at Edgewood Summit
As an active senior living community, Edgewood Summit offers a wide variety of wellness opportunities on our monthly calendar. From gentle yoga to sittercise to Silver & Strong Classes, you’ll find there’s no shortage of exercise possibilities in every level of care. Right on campus you’ll also find a fitness center and beautiful walking paths. There are countless things you can pack into each day. In fact, your only problem may be deciding how to fill your time!
Edgewood Summit is the only locally owned, not-for-profit continuing care retirement community in Kanawha Valley. Along with a vibrant lifestyle on a scenic mountaintop campus, residents have the security of on-site health services, if ever needed.