It’s never too late to start exercising! Whether you’re young or old, can bicycle 100 miles in one go or prefer gentle water aerobics, the benefits of physical activity span the entire lifecycle. However, exercise may be especially important in the elderly, who may have already started to sense some decline in function. By pushing themselves to participate in a certain amount of activity each day, 50+ adults can help stave off the ailments of old age and maintain the level of ability they are more used to. Here are just a few ways regular exercise can help the elderly:
Helps Treat Osteoarthritis
A common misconception is that using your joints more often may wear them out quicker. In older adults who may be suffering from arthritis, particularly in large joints like the knees, engaging in physical activity may seem like a daunting and painful task. However, studies have shown that exercise doesn’t make arthritis worse – it is actually beneficial for joint health! Regular exercise can help strengthen the muscles around joints and also promote the function of cartilage, the smooth casing that covers the bone.
Getting exercise every day is also an important intervention that helps reduce falls in older adults. Exercise builds stronger muscles and can help promote better balance, which all leads to people feeling steadier on their feet. According to the CDC, one in four people over the age of 65 experience a fall every year, and approximately three percent of those who fall actually die from it. Exercise, therefore, plays a huge role in keeping the elderly population alive and healthy. What’s more, those who are able to get around on their own without worrying about falling can feel more independent and may ultimately have an improved quality of life than those who cannot.
Improves Cardiovascular Health
It goes without saying that exercise plays a major role in promoting cardiovascular health. Those who participate in the recommended level of activity decrease their chances of diseases like obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. This ultimately has a positive impact on longevity and reduces lifelong disability.
Builds Social Connections
Exercising is also a great way for older adults to remain social and to stay connected with a group of peers. Many people start to feel more isolated and alone as they age, which can have a negative impact on both mental and physical health. By engaging in regular exercise, physical activity gives elderly people an excuse to get up and interact with others during the day, which ultimately may increase their life expectancy as well.
Improves Cognitive Function
One of the biggest fears of growing older is a decline in cognitive function. Luckily, physical exercise even plays a role here too. Studies have shown that getting exercise can improve cognitive function and cognitive processing speed by promoting neuroprotective mechanisms. Similarly, other studies have shown that exercise can have a positive effect on mood in older adults. Exercise truly is the best medicine for the mind, body, and soul.