Exercise for the elderly
Exercise has many benefits to both the young and old people. It increases your life expectancy, boosts your immunity, improves your cognitive function and strengthens your muscles and bones.
You are less likely to get fractures when you have a minor accident such as a fall when you exercise regularly. We now take a look at why is exercise important for the elderly, what are the benefits of exercise for elderly, how much exercise for elderly, how to make exercise fun for elderly, and what is the best exercise for elderly.
Why is Exercise Important for the Elderly?
Research conducted by the American Academy of Family Physicians revealed that exercises are more beneficial to the elderly as compared to younger people.
In addition to the regular benefits of health such as healthier heart, stronger bones, and improved flexibility, exercises conducted by the elderly lowers the chances of injury, improves mental health and reduces the risk of chronic diseases.
Your muscle mass begins to decline as you grow old. By the time you reach your forties, you begin to lose at least 3% of your total muscle mass every subsequent decade of your life. However, exercising reduces the rate of muscle loss in your body.
Muscles play a key role in balance and bone strength in your body. You should, therefore, start exercising regularly to keep your muscles fit and reduce the chances of falling due to loss of balance.
Exercises improve the cognitive function of the elderly. When you do endurance exercises such as running or jogging, there is increased blood flow to the brain. This results in increased electrical activity in the mind which causes interactions between neurons.
Neurons are primarily responsible for the transmission of impulses within the brain which directly has a positive impact on your cognitive function. You will think more clearly because your brain will be more active after the exercise.
Research conducted by the American Academy of health and fitness also revealed that increased adults who lived a sedentary life are likely to get dementia compared to their age mates who exercise regularly. By now, you know why is exercise important for the elderly.
What are the benefits of exercise for the elderly?
Keeping fit has numerous benefits to people of different age groups from the young generation to the older generation. Let us have a look at what are the benefits of exercise for elderly:
1. You enjoy a better and peaceful sleep
Most older adults complain of insomnia and disrupted sleep patterns most of the time. These problems can go away when you begin to exercise regularly. Lack of enough sleep hurts your mental, emotional and physical health.
Regular exercises will make you fall asleep quickly, sleep longer and wake up feeling refreshed. Your sleeping patterns will no longer be disrupted.
2. It prevents falls
Muscles and bones are primarily responsible for maintaining balance and flexibility. As you grow old, muscles begin to lose mass and integrity, therefore, becoming less effective by the day.
Exercise improves your muscle strength and bone density thereby improving your balance. Older adults who have high muscle mass are less prone to falls.
3. Improved mental health
Exercise helps endorphins which are hormones present in your brain that make you feel good. These hormones help to relieve stress and make you feel happy and satisfied with yourself.
Regularly keeping fit reduces the severity of depression and therefore boosts your mood. Try it out if you want to have a happy life!
4. Increased life expectancy
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a sedentary lifestyle is one of the top 10 causes of deaths in the world. Without exercising regularly, you will easily develop lifestyle conditions such as heart disease, atherosclerosis, diabetes, and stroke which lower your life expectancy.
The elderly can increase their life expectancy by keeping fit regularly. Challenge yourself today to begin exercising! It is not too late to add more years!
5. Reduced risk of developing dementia
Dementia is one of the most common mental conditions affecting the elderly. Memory loss can be devastating not only to the victim and their loved ones. Victims need more attention and care compared to when one was okay and could remember anything.
Fortunately, exercises can reduce the risk of developing dementia. According to the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, people living the sedentary lifestyle are 35% more likely to develop dementia compared to those who exercise regularly.
6. Reduced risk of chronic diseases
Regular cardiovascular exercises such as running, biking or walking reduce the chances of getting chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart failure, and stroke. These exercises raise heart rate meaning there will be increased blood flow to your heart.
A healthier heart means a stronger and disease-defiant body.
How much exercise for the elderly?
According to Mayo Clinic, adults should spend at least 150 minutes per week doing exercises to maintain a healthy body. However, if you intend to accomplish specific fitness goals such a losing weight, you can ramp up your exercise to 300 minutes or more per week.
Well, to answer the question, how much exercise for elderly, this will be more influenced by personal goals for fitness.
One hundred fifty minutes per week translates into 30 minutes per day of moderate physical exercise. You can also decide to perform a vigorous exercise of 75 minutes once a week if you do not have enough time to do daily exercises.
You should also conduct strength exercises at least two days a week. Strength exercises involve lifting a weight or using a resistance band to increase your muscle strength. You can also perform bodily exercises such as push-ups and sit-ups to increase your muscle strength.
These strength exercises help the elderly to lift heavy products within the house or in the market such as groceries.
You can also incorporate physical activity into your daily activities by:
- Taking stairs instead of the elevator.
- Walking your dog in the neighbourhood.
- Walking to places that are nearby.
- Biking to your workplace.
However, not all exercises involve walking. You can read more about chair exercises for the elderly here.
How to make exercise fun for the elderly?
Exercise can be boring and tiring for most people. That is why only a few people fulfil their fitness goals. People get tired of repeating the same thing many times; they want fast results which is not possible if you are not ready to give that extra effort. Fortunately, there are ways on how to make exercise fun for elderly:
1. Join exercise classes
Fitness programs offered in groups is more beneficial and fun compared to one done alone in your home. In these exercise classes you will find support and encouragement from people who are just like you: want to keep fit. You will also meet new people who can become long term friends.
2. Create a conducive environment with music
Music is the medicine of the soul. It can be a great motivator in difficult situations. Music can ignite your resilience and enduring spirit when performing exercises. There is no way you are going to exercise without music again!
Music helps you pace yourself. You can start exercising at slow a pace with slower music then as you transit to a faster pace, change to fast and electric music that will charge your spirit with positivity and endurance.
Music motivates you by helping you to remain in good moods. Next time you are exercising, put on your favourite playlist, and you will see how energised you can be.
3. Try something new
Maybe you no longer feel excited using the same machine that you have handled for over a year. It is time to try something new. For example, if you have using recumbent bicycles, then you can transit to upright bike or use the treadmill.
It is all about finding your favourite form of exercise.
4. Reward yourself
This is the most effective way to make fitness programs interesting and memorable.
Decide to set fitness goals and provide rewards for accomplishing each of them such as buying yourself a dress, eating your dream dish at your dream restaurant and many more.
Whenever you reward yourself, you will feel more encouraged to continue with other fitness goals. Exercise will no longer be stressful and boring. Instead, it will be your most precious time.
What is the best exercise for the elderly?
There are many types of exercises that the elderly can undertake to keep fit. We now take a look at what is the best exercise for elderly:
1. Endurance exercises
These type of exercise improves the health of your lungs and the entire circulatory system including the heart and the blood vessels. With endurance exercises, you will rarely have atherosclerosis. Examples endurance exercises include brisk walking and dancing.
2. Strength exercises
These exercises help to strengthen your muscles which will enable you to carry heavy things such as groceries from the market. Strength exercises include sit-ups, push-ups, weight lifting and using resistance bands.
3. Balance exercises
Balance exercises primarily help to prevent falls which is a major health risk for the elderly. You can improve your balance by standing on one foot or enrolling for tai-chi class.
4. Stretch exercises
They help to improve your body flexibility. Yoga is the best example of a flexibility exercise. You will have the freedom to move your body in any direction without any struggle or pain.
Exercises are important for the health of the elderly. They boost their immunity, increase their life expectancy and reduce the risk of mental health conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. If you love your body, then you will start exercising now! No more resolutions, only action, and discipline!
This article was first published on UK Care Guide and you can read it here.