How Regular Exercise Benefits Seniors

By: Mollie Shauger | Friday, September 20, 2019 | Fitness

Men and women exercising. Credit: Y-USA

Regular physical activity can help people of all ages to live longer and healthier lives. For seniors, it’s especially important as certain muscles and organs begin to weaken later in life, increasing the risk for injuries and compromising the ability to live independently.

The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends that adults ages 65 and older get at least 2.5 hours of moderate aerobic exercise, or 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous exercise each week. However, many exercises that promote balance and flexibility can be done as part of a daily routine. That could include going up and down stairs, walking the dog, or gardening.

If you’re just starting to exercise after being sedentary for a while, start slowly. Seniors should also consult their doctor before beginning a new fitness program.

Here are some ways that exercising improves both physical and psychological health:

Builds strength 

The loss of strength and stamina attributed to aging is in part caused by reduced physical activity, according to the CDC. Exercise protects against bone loss and reduces the risk of osteoporosis. Stronger bones, muscles and joints can help lower the risk of falls and fractures. 

Improves balance

Having good balance is important in preventing falls and for everyday activities such as climbing stairs and walking. 

Boosts energy

Exercise builds endurance by increasing a person’s breathing and heart rate, and providing the energy needed to do everyday tasks or keep up with the grandkids at the park. 

Increases flexibility 

Exercises such as yoga that stretch muscles keep you limber and more easily able to move. Stretching can keep your joints and muscles healthy and help prevent injuries.

Delays and prevents disease

The more physically active you are, the lower your risk of developing cancer, diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis and other health conditions. Regular exercise can also lower blood pressure and help you maintain a healthy weight.

Improves mood

Studies have shown that exercising releases chemicals such as endorphins that increase feelings of happiness, and relieve stress and pain.

Improves brain function

Regular exercise can prevent memory loss and help fight off Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, research shows. Physical activity keeps the blood flowing in your brain and increases chemicals that protect the brain.

The YMCA offers a variety of fitness programs for all ages and abilities. Check with your local YMCA branch for a schedule of group classes and wellness programs. Because the Y is for all, financial assistance is available for qualifying individuals and families who would like to participate in Y programs.


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