The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that having an active lifestyle is one of the most important things that an older adult can do to increase and maintain wellness. In fact, the CDC recommends that those 65 and older with no limiting health conditions undergo at least 2 hours and 30 minutes a week of moderate intensity aerobic activity, such as brisk walking, as well as muscle strengthening activities for all major muscle groups twice a week. But why?
Lowering Your Risks
Regular exercise can help lower the risk of heart disease in older individuals by lowering their blood pressure. It can also decrease the risk of osteoporosis and prevent injury due to bone weakness. Because post-menopausal women lose as much as 2 percent of their bone mass each year, strength training is recommended not only to slow the loss, but also to restore bones and improve balance.
You wouldn’t necessarily think that exercise would be an important key to managing the pain caused by arthritis, but it is. According to the Arthritis Foundation, exercise is the most effective non-drug treatment for managing osteoarthritis pain. Aquatic exercise in shoulder-height water, in particular, is shown to be an effective low-impact option for beginners that provides muscle resistance training while relieving pressure on the knee and hip joints.
Other arthritis-friendly exercises that the Foundation suggests include range of motion or flexibility exercises, walking or jogging, and mild to moderate weight training to provide muscles that are stronger and better able to support arthritic joints.
A recent study has shown that seniors with healthy hearts and lungs do better on memory tests than those with lower levels of heart and lung fitness. The study involved MRI scans that measured brain activity as the individuals, aged 55-74, learned the names of strangers in photos. The increased brain activity in the individuals with high heart and lung fitness was seen in the regions of the brain that are normally impacted by age-related decline, the report noted.
Slowing Down the Aging Process
It is said that no one can stop Father Time from marching forward. However, a 2015 study that was written about in The New York Times, suggests that exercise can slow that march. The study involved comparing the telomeres — small caps on the ends of DNA strands that protect DNA from damage during cell division and replication — in those who exercised and those who did not.
What was discovered was that those who regularly participated in at least one type of physical exercise were less likely to have the shortened or frayed telomeres that define an aging cell. The benefits increased substantially for those who participated in more than one type of exercise on a regular basis. What’s more, the benefits were most pronounced in the telomeres of active people between the ages of 40 and 65.
You may have some limitations as to which exercises you can do or how much exercise you can get, but the general consensus is that any amount of physical activity is better than no activity at all. Talk to your doctor about which activities are best for you and embrace the benefits that come with exercise. You’re never too old to start living a more active life.