That American icon, George Burns (who lived to be 100) used to say, “If I knew I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself!” We all know individuals who seem to be blessed with remarkable genes, and no matter how many unhealthy lifestyle habits they have, to such an extent that they are able to eat anything they want, never seem to have as much as a case of the sniffles and whose sole means of exercise is hoisting a few “brewskis” at the local pub. Face it, no matter how much we lecture and admonish them about the dire consequences of their lifestyle choices, they’re probably going to live to a ripe old age. But for the rest of us who might be concerned with quality of life as we age, exercise is one of the keys. In this article, I’ll discuss the benefits of exercising into old age, common myths regarding senior exercise and the four main types of exercise.
Exercise is important for good health at any age, and seniors are no exception. The benefits of exercise for adults over 50 fall into two categories; physical & mental:
Physical health benefits of exercise and fitness over 50
- Exercise helps older adults maintain or lose weight. As we age our metabolism naturally slows (approximately 10% per decade starting in our 30s) so maintaining a healthy weight can be a definite challenge. Exercise helps increase metabolism by replacing fat with lean muscle mass and muscle burns calories much more efficiently than fat.
- Exercise reduces the impact of illness and chronic disease. Among the many benefits of exercise for adults over 50 include improved immune function, better heart health and blood pressure, better bone density, and better digestive functioning. People who exercise also have a lowered risk of several chronic conditions including Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, osteoporosis, and colon cancer.
- Exercise enhances mobility, flexibility, and balance in adults over 50. Exercise improves your strength, flexibility and posture, which in turn will help with balance, coordination, and reducing the risk of falls. Two major benefits that many seniors can appreciate is that 1) exercise helps alleviate the symptoms of chronic conditions such as arthritis, and 2) exercise helps to increase bone density thus minimizing the possibility of fractures and breaks which can be devastating to seniors and lead to the need for in home senior care.
Mental health benefits of exercise and fitness over 50
- Exercise improves sleep quality. Contrary to popular belief, poor sleep is not an inevitable consequence of aging and quality sleep is important for your overall health. Exercise often improves sleep, helping you fall asleep more quickly and sleep more soundly.
- Exercise boosts mood and self-confidence. Endorphins produced by exercise can actually help you feel better and reduce feelings of sadness or depression. Being active and feeling strong naturally helps you feel more self-confident and sure of yourself.
- Exercise is good for the brain. Exercise benefits regular brain functions and can help keep the brain active, which can prevent memory loss, cognitive decline, and dementia. Exercise may even help slow the progression of brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. Unchecked, this might lead to the need of assisted living services at home or in a facility.