It is without question that exercise is beneficial at any stage of life, but did you know that exercise can actually make you happier? Thanks to the release of endorphins that make people feel good, exercise is proven to improve people’s moods and spark joy! Moreover, studies from the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal confirm that “exercise plays an active role in treating depression”, which is a particularly important finding considering that “1 in 4 seniors lives with mental health challenges (e.g., depression, anxiety or dementia) or illness, and 10 to 15% of adults 65 years or older and living in the community suffer from depression.” Not only can exercise prevent depression, but it can also help to reduce stress, improve sleep and improve the overall health of seniors.
Physical activity for seniors does not need to be strenuous to improve mobility, muscle strengthening, flexibility, stamina, coordination, and overall health. In fact, just a moderate amount of daily physical activity can work wonders on the mind and the body. Some benefits of physical activity for seniors include:
- Increased ability to live independently
- Increased proprioception leading to a lowered risk of falls or fractures
- Reduced blood pressure in seniors with hypertension
- Reduced risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, colon cancer and heart disease
- Maintenance of healthy bones, muscles, and joints
- Controlled swelling of joints and pain caused from arthritis
Often, the hardest part of exercise for seniors is getting started. Finding a community group, exercise class at your nursing home or a movement practice you can enjoy with friends and family can help ease the fear of starting a new fitness regime. For seniors, most common types of exercise programs are:
- Walking, brisk walking or stair walking
- Dancing (which, according to the academic journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, is the most likely form of exercise to reverse the signs of aging in the brain!)
- Water Aerobics
- Chair Yoga
- Resistance Band Workouts
- Tai Chi
Remember, if you or your loved one is just learning a new physical activity, start slow! The CDC recommends just 5-10 minutes of gentle movement to start and to always get a doctor’s approval before starting out a new exercise program.