Everyone knows that exercise is important, but trying to stay active as you get older can be a challenge. As we age, we tend to suffer from joint pain, have more health problems and worry about getting injured.
Exercising has a ton of benefits though and can actually alleviate a lot of these conditions – if only we would do it.
- Control weight: Your metabolism naturally slows with age, so maintaining a healthy weight is a challenge. Exercise helps increase metabolism and builds muscle mass, helping your body burn more calories.
- Strengthen mental acuity: Because exercise often requires concentration, multitasking, and creative thinking, it’s great for brain function. It can help prevent memory loss, cognitive decline, and dementia – and may even slow the progression of brain disorders such as Alzheimer's disease.
- Boost energy and reduce the risk of disease: People who exercise tend to have an improved immune system and digestive system, better blood pressure and bone density, as well as a lower risk of diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers.
- Reduce risk of injury: Exercise improves your strength, flexibility, balance, and coordination, reducing the risk of falls and alleviating arthritis symptoms.
- Improve sleep: Regular activity will tire you out, helping you fall asleep more quickly and sleep more deeply.
- Improve mood: Since exercise produces endorphins, it can reduce feelings of sadness or anxiety and, naturally, increase your self-confidence.
By exercising and improving all of these conditions, older adults can stay healthier and happier longer.
Try these activities
We recommend the following lower-impact, aerobic activities to get you started.
For a competitive sport: Tennis
If you're looking for a challenge or have a more competitive spirit, tennis is a great activity for any age.
Tennis involves small strides, core movements, and intense concentration - which means that players have to be creative, agile, and coordinated. This helps keep our brains active and can also reduce the risk of heart disease and osteoporosis.
Since it’s a very social sport, tennis will allow you to spend more time with your friends and make new ones.
To relax and enjoy nature: Walking and Hiking
Walking and slow hiking are free, convenient, and easy on your body. Walking may not seem as beneficial as other cardiovascular exercises like, running, biking or swimming, but there are a lot of health benefits to walking regularly.
It will give your heart and lungs a workout while toning and strengthening muscles, as well as improve circulation and bone mass. Best of all: You'll feel happier and sleep better after doing it.
You can make walking more enjoyable by making a day out of it. Ask friends or family to join you, or find a spot with beautiful scenery.
To make waves and ease your joints: Water Aerobics and Swimming
Many people consider swimming the “near-perfect exercise.” It’s extremely popular for those with arthritis and osteoarthritis because it’s easy on the joints, but forces you to use all large muscle groups. Some people don't want to exercise because of the pain, but swimming is one of the few activities where you don't have to worry about that.
Because water is denser than air, moving through water puts more pressure on your limbs. However, the pressure is evenly distributed, so certain body parts like your knees or hips bear much less burden then they do for most out-of-water exercises.
In addition to easing arthritis discomfort, swimming and water aerobics have been shown to be effective in reducing high blood pressure, improving heart health and mitigating knee pain in overweight seniors.
For some stress relief: Yoga (or Tai Chi)
Yoga has a gentle way of encouraging strength, flexibility and joint health. Added benefit: It's pretty difficult to injure yourself while doing it. This makes yoga a great activity for those with arthritis, and since it also helps strengthen ankles and knees, adults at risk of falls should try it to improve balance and coordination.
Because so much of yoga is focused on breathing and listening to your body, it can improve respiration and reduce blood pressure. Focusing on the breath and slow movements triggers your parasympathetic nervous system, which lowers feelings of anxiety.