We've all been told how important it is to exercise, but it is particularly important for older adults. Senior citizens are at risk for many types of mental and physical ailments, several of which can be cured or prevented by exercise. Here are five ways getting active can help seniors' mental and physical health.
Reducing Cognitive Impairment
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported that more than 16 million people in the United States are living with dementia, Alzheimer's, and other forms of cognitive impairment. Exercise could lessen this number, however. According to a new study published by the Journal of the American College of Sports Medicine, physical activity and cognitive function are linked. Seniors who regularly engaged in physical activities were found to have less cognitive impairment than those who led a sedentary lifestyle.
Preventing and Treating Disease
Exercise helps seniors keep their blood pressure and cholesterol at healthy levels, which has been found to reduce the risk for type 2 diabetes. Exercise is also beneficial for heart health. The American Heart Association recommends exercise to reduce the risk of heart disease. Older adults have an increased risk of heart disease, especially if they are overweight.
Lessening Chances for Depression
According to some estimates, as much as 15 percent of the senior population suffer from depression. This number could be significantly lowered if seniors developed moderate exercise plans. A research study from Duke University Medical Center found that exercising just three times per week caused significant improvement for seniors who had been diagnosed with major depression. Also, the depression did not return after six months.
Avoiding Social Isolation
Social isolation is a growing problem for senior populations. A study published in the Journal of Primary Prevention indicates that as many as 43 percent of seniors may be socially isolated. Many health problems have been associated with social isolation, including dementia and risk for falls. Exercise can help combat social isolation because many exercise activities promote a sense of community. Examples of social exercises for seniors include working out at a gym with friends, playing golf at a club, walking with a neighbor, or joining a bowling league.
Keeping Joints Healthy
As people age, their risk for developing arthritis increases. A common misconception is that exercise can cause arthritis, but the opposite is true. Studies have shown that regular, moderate exercise can help lessen the effects of arthritis.
The Best Types of Exercises for Seniors
The National Institute of Health recommends a combination of exercises and physical activities for seniors. Examples include walking, gardening, swimming, bowling, biking, and using exercise DVDs. Inactive seniors who want to begin an exercise routine should consult their doctors.
Exercise is beneficial for people of all ages, but it is especially so for seniors. By engaging in physical activities, seniors can treat and prevent many common health problems and therefore live fuller, more active lives.