...and how to get started.
By: Cindy Trillo
No matter your age, it is never too late to start exercising and get healthy.
For seniors, lifestyle changes may impede our motivation to work out on a daily basis; having achy joints, heightened fatigue, and anxiety about falling all seem like good excuses to stay seated on the couch.
But the truth is, an active lifestyle is particularly helpful for long-term health. Seniors benefit from exercise just as younger people do.
Senior Fitness Benefits
There is a common misunderstanding about seniors and exercise.
Many people believe that after a certain age, exercise won't do much for you. But a study by Zampieri in 2015 showed this to be false.
This study basically proved that lifelong physical activity delayed the downward trend of body strength that people normally experience.
This means that if you remain active later in life, you will prevent body aging better than someone who is no longer an active senior.
What's even more interesting is a study released by Stewart et. al. in October of 2013.
The conclusion these researchers found was that "resistance training has the ability to... increase muscle strength in very elderly muscle."
The working definition of "very elderly muscle" was 75 years and older.
Yeah. Looks like you can absolutely still change your health and body as a senior.
Besides the obvious benefits for the body, studies in mental wellness have shown that physical activity can also help to prevent memory loss and boost your mood.
Increased mood is great, sure. But an incredible find in the past several years has been in the world of mental performance.
As highlighted by van de Rest et. al. in 2014, a few key mental benefits of exercise have been revealed:
- "Exercise is one of THE MOST EFFECTIVE strategies to prevent cognitive decline" (van de Rest et.al)
- Attention and working memory both improve just by becoming more active
- When protein intake is increased along with the addition of physical activity, information processing speed increases significantly.
So... what is this telling us?
Fitness for seniors isn’t only about adding years to your life, but life to your years.
Whether you select an assisted living residence with a dynamic workout room or you join the local gym, there are many ways for seniors to exercise and have fun doing it, all while improving your general sense of well-being.
How to Start
First thing’s first: talk to your doctor. As we age, we sometimes test our physical boundaries in ways that can be harmful to our health.
Clearing your exercise plans with your doctor is a great place to start, for you should always consider your overall physical and mental health in terms of your pre-existing conditions before taking on new challenges.
Once you confirm your ability to exercise regularly, you can start to reap the benefits of fitness for seniors. If you are finding it to be a struggle to garner the needed motivation, here are some ideas to get you started:
· Listen to an audiobook or your favorite album while walking or lifting weights
· Join a tennis club for seniors to meet some new friends and get active
· Take your camera along while hiking - you’ll be more likely to spend extra time outdoors if you are taking some great nature shots
· Watch a movie while walking on the treadmill
· Find an exercise partner who can inspire the two of you to try new activities together
How to Stay Motivated Long-term
With these ideas in place, you may feel ready to take on physical activity wholeheartedly. But what happens when the fire dies down?
Getting active is much different than staying active. Setting short-term goals, such as shedding a few pounds or improving upon your energy levels, are good ways to make exercise part of your routine.
You can also reward yourself when you achieve one of these goals. By choosing something you always look forward to, like going to your favorite theater for a show, you will be reminded of the end reward on the days when you don’t want to get active.
At every age, fitness is key to our overall mental and physical health.
By engaging in an exercise plan as a senior, you can extend your later years and filled them with energy, happiness, and flexibility.
Check out caring.com for TONS of similar are topics!
Martnoga, B., & Ben Martynoga is a neuroscientist, science writer and a visiting researcher at the Francis Crick Institute in London. (2016, June 18). How physical exercise makes your brain work better. Retrieved August 15, 2017, from https.//www.theguardian.com/eduation/2016/jun/18/how-physical-exercise-makes-your-brain-work-better
Assisted Living in Dallas, TX (n.d.). Retrieved August 15, 2017, from https://www.senioradvisor.com/dallas-tx/assisted-living
Lewine, M. H. (2014, May 29). Exercise helps seniors stay mobile, independent. Retrieved August 15, 2017, fromhttps://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/walking-exercise-helps-seniors-stay-mobile-independent-201405287173
Berkeley Wellness, University of California. Retrieved August 15, 2017 from http://www.berkeleywellness.com/fitness/exercise/slideshow/best-movie-workout-scenes
Stewart, V.H., Saunders, D.H., Greig, C.A. (2013, October 24). Responsiveness of muscle size and strength to physical training in very elderly people: A systematic review. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 24:1 (1-10). doi: 10.1111/sms.12123
Zampieri, S. (February 2015). Lifelong physical exercise delays age-associated skeletal muscle decline. Gerontology, 70:2. Retreived from https://academic.oup.com/biomedgerontology/article/70/2/163/592488/Lifelong-Physical-Exercise-Delays-Age-Associated
van de Rest, O. et. al. (April 2014). Effect of resistance-type exercise training with or without protein supplementation on cognitive functioning in frail and pre-frail elderly: Secondary analysis of a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Mechanisms of Ageing and Development 136: 85-93. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mad.2013.12.005