Exercise is important to the human body and mind at every stage of life, but it may be even more significant during the older stages. As people get older, they typically engage in less physical activity for a number of reasons including fear of falling or general safety, lack of transportation and limited equipment or facilities. Before writing off exercise completely, it is important to know a few things:
- Exercise is generally safe for older adults and has many physical and mental benefits.
- Exercise does not have to be backbreaking to provide benefits. Things such as walking, gardening, dancing and swimming are all great ways to exercise without putting too much of a toll on the human body.
- As people get older, they lose physical performance in four main areas: strength, balance, flexibility and endurance. Exercising for even a short time every day can seriously reduce the rate at which these attributes diminish over time.
- Physical activity allows for better sleep patterns. It helps people fall asleep more quickly, experience deeper sleep stages and wake up fewer times throughout the night.
- Exercise is good for the brain. It encourages more positive brain activity, which helps to prevent memory loss and may slow the further development of brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s.
- The risk of developing high blood pressure is decreased as a result of physical activity.
- Exercise increases endorphins in the brain, which help to decrease anxiety and reduce depressed feelings.
Types of Physical Activity
- More often referred to as cardio training.
- Is defined as physical activity which is performed over an extended period of time at a consistent rate.
- Includes such activities as running (not sprinting), walking, swimming, cycling, dancing and hiking.
- Strengthens muscles used in the respiratory system, which increases endurance.
- Increases blood circulation, which decreases the threat of high blood pressure.
- Helps tone muscles throughout the body including the heart, which improves its pumping efficiency and blood flow.
- More often referred to as strength training.
- Is defined as physical activity in which the person performs a series of short, intense and repetitive actions.
- Includes such activities as weight lifting (using weights, resistance bands or body weight) and short, concentrated movements such as sprint running and sprint swimming.
- Helps build muscle, which improves balance and control. Improvements in these areas help prevent serious falls.
- Helps the body maintain bone mass.
General Exercise Tips
- Before starting any exercise program, make sure to consult your physician to see if you are healthy enough to do so.
- If you have mobility issues, try joining a class where there are supervisors who can help you.
- Make sure to do a 5-10 minute warm-up and a stretching regiment before every workout session.
- Try to find someone to exercise with you. This will help to keep both of you motivated and safe during your workouts.
- Try to exercise at least 3 times a week with a mix of both aerobic and anaerobic exercises.
- It is important to drink enough water before and after workouts so that you do not get dehydrated.
- It is important to eat a healthy diet to support your exercise plan. Make sure to eat fruits and vegetables high in water, foods with protein to help rebuild and repair muscles, and dairy or juices that contain calcium to sustain bone mass.