The Importance Of Exercise In The Aging Adult

By: Rachel Amarosa, ATC

As most of us know, there are countless benefits from exercising. However, did you know as we age, the benefits of physical activity can be significant and life-changing? In fact, regular exercise can help prevent or delay chronic diseases, extend your lifespan by years, reduce your chance of injury, and improve your overall physical and mental health. Some individuals have to exercise more carefully than others, so it is highly recommended that you see your physician first before starting a new physical activity program. Your doctor can make sure your body is ready, provide program recommendations, and list any limitations that you may need to be aware of. Below are some of the key benefits of how exercising can greatly impact the effects of an aging body.

Prevent Or Delay Disease: Exercise can be an effective tool for prevention and management of several chronic conditions. Exercise can lower your risk of developing a serious condition and it can minimize symptoms after certain conditions have already developed. Studies have shown that people with heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, osteoporosis, and arthritis can all benefit from regular exercise. Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in the US. Regular exercise can reduce your blood pressure, your blood glucose levels, and decrease your LDL cholesterol.  These specific benefits will remarkably lower your risk of heart disease and your chances of having a stroke. Exercise can also improve your bone, joint, and muscle health. Exercise can be the most crucial and conservative option for arthritis management. Regular, low impact activity helps lubricate the joints and reduce your overall pain and stiffness associated with arthritis. Research has also shown that strength training and weight-bearing activities can help protect against bone loss, help rebuild bones, and reduce the threat of developing osteoporosis and fractures.  

Prevents Falls: Exercise will improve your overall muscle strength, balance, functional reach and coordination, therefore, reducing your risk of falling. Reducing your risk of falling, as we age, can significantly reduce the risk of fractures and other injuries that can require a lot time and energy to heal.

Extending Lifespan/Living Longer: A sedentary lifestyle is one of the leading causes of death and disability. A healthy heart and lungs make the body run more effectively and efficiently as we age. Research has shown, that the effects of regular low level exercise can increase your lifespan by around three to five years.

Other key physical and mental health benefits: Your mental health can greatly improve with physical activity. Exercise helps reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression and can help reduce the risk of developing serious conditions, such as dementia. Exercise can also enhance your immunity and boost your gastrointestinal function. A healthy, strong body can fight off disease and infection more swiftly and rapidly. Lastly, exercise helps enhance your metabolism, promote the elimination of waste, and can stimulate better overall digestive health.

Now that you are ready to get started, here are some professional tips. As mentioned above, see your doctor first! Once you have consent from a medical professional, take things slowly and start safely with 15 to 20 minute intervals of low to moderate activity then gradually build from there. These activities can include walking, swimming, or cycling for cardiovascular health. Then incorporate endurance and strength training, along with stretching and flexibility exercises. Stretching improves your circulation, flexibility, and muscle tone. Stretching prevents injury to your muscles, tendons, and joints while accelerating your recovery and enhancing your overall performance. Stretching will give your joints the range of motion required to perform more dynamic movements with the proper form and without restriction. Last but not least, since our bodies can take longer to repair themselves as we age, give yourself a day or two rest in between workouts and gradually work up to exercising 4 to 7 times per week.

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