The older adults in our lives bring us joy, offer us love, and take great care of those around them. If you’re the child, grandchild, or loved one of an older adult, then you know how important it is to give this love and care back in any way you can. One way you can do this is by keeping the older adults in your life active. There are a variety of benefits physical activity and exercise can have for older adults, including heart health, muscle building, and an increase of energy!
Importance of Being Active as We Age
Harvard Health recently published research on how muscle mass, flexibility, stamina, heart health, resistance, and strength can decline at an increased rate after the age of 55. Some may assume this decline is inevitable, but it’s not! As modern technology and medicine are proving, it is becoming increasingly clear that much of this decline can be prevented and sometimes even reversed! One of the best ways to help prevent and reverse this decline is through exercise.
As the loved ones in your life age, partaking in endurance exercise, aerobic exercise, strength training, and yoga can promote recovery from joint pain, reduced inflammation, and other physical challenges while decreasing their risk of general decline. Physical activity can also result in a more independent life for your loved one. Below are some of the specific benefits associated with physical activity!
Reduces Risk for Disease
Lack of exercise is actually one of the five biggest risks associated with the development of heart disease. Getting regular exercise and participating in physical activity can help lower your risk for heart disease. This can be done in a few ways.
For instance, exercise can lead to weight loss. Obesity is associated with numerous health problems, such as diabetes, heart disease, and even urinary incontinence. With regular physical exercise, you can lose weight and reduce your risk of developing these conditions.
Weight loss also reduces the risk of high blood pressure. Regular exercise reduces the amount of bad cholesterol we have in our bodies and raise the good forms of cholesterol. For older adults with diabetes, physical activity is especially beneficial as it can even increase the effectiveness of insulin on glucose levels in the blood.
Regular physical activity promotes our cardiovascular health and endurance, which helps improve our circulation, decrease blood pressure, and balance our blood hormones, thereby reducing the risk of heart disease.
Exercises like yoga can also increase mobility! As you age, things that you once did with ease may now be much harder, and more painful. Our bodies have a tougher time keeping up with all the things we enjoy doing, but yoga can help reduce stiffness and promote mobility!
Whether you are just now starting to notice that some movements are more difficult, or have experienced this challenge for a while, practicing yoga can help ease your muscles and joints, making them more flexible and thus increase mobility.
Exercise promotes social activity
Fitness classes are one of the easiest ways for older adults to exercise their social muscles and their physical muscles. There are many benefits of socializing for seniors. In fact, it can even add years to your life. Feelings of isolation and loneliness have a variety of negative impacts on physical and mental health, and loneliness has been found to be a predictor of physical decline and death. By actively socializing, you can promote a longer lifespan and add to your overall health and wellness.
Social activities are proven to make us feel better about ourselves. Having friends and community gives us confidence. This confidence leads us to socialize more, and this leads to overall mental health and wellbeing.
Socializing also raises self-esteem and self-worth. Being social is part of our lives. We have families, maintain relationships with our friends, and have Facebook because keeping in touch with people and staying connected to people is important to us. When we partake in this important activity, our lives feel purposeful and hopeful, and this can strengthen our self-esteem and worth.
Consistent socialization can reduce stress levels in older adults. Socializing allows you to find others you can share your stress with. You may even connect with someone in your same situation, and you can walk through it together instead of being alone. If you don’t reach out to a community, however, it will be very hard to find this support, so it’s vital to make an effort and socialize consistently.
Exercise can reduce the risk for depression
As much as 40 percent of adults suffer from chronic loneliness. Nobody should feel isolated from their family and friends. When this loneliness is left unaddressed, it can quickly develop into depression or anxiety. Those who are lonely or depressed are in a form of psychosocial stress, and as such, can lead to worsening disease and death. Research has shown that exercise can help reduce stress and anxiety levels, which can also help decrease depression.
Exercise can help improve mood and relieve stress
Another wonderful benefit of exercise is stress relief. Cortisol is the hormone in control of the stress balance in our bodies. It is in charge of signaling our bodies’ stress receptors in the case of danger. However, too much stress can lead to various health and mental issues.
Multiple studies have shown that exercise can help reduce stress levels. If you struggle with feeling anxious or stressed, especially if you live alone or feel isolated from family and friends, practicing yoga may help you reduce stress.
Importance of Support
Exercise may seem intimidating or out of reach for the older adults in your life, especially if they are new to exercise. They may have trouble finding a routine that’s right for them. They might feel afraid of the movements and afraid of falling down or getting injured. They may also just feel stuck and unsure of where to start.
This is why supporting the older adults in your life and encouraging them to exercise is so important! Research shows that those who have a support system in place to keep them on track with their fitness goals get further and are more motivated and dedicated than those who don’t have a support system.
There are a variety of different opportunities to show support. Offering your emotional support can be the difference between giving up and pressing forward! It can be difficult for the older adult in your life to find a workout routine that’s right for them and maintain the habit. Without emotional support, they are more likely to give up or not even start. However, if you offer this form of encouragement for the older adult in your life, it could make all the difference.
There is also physical support, and this can be demonstrated in a variety of ways. You can cook meals for your loved ones that are nutritious, and protein-packed. You can offer them rides to exercise classes, and you can even offer to exercise with them. You can go on walks, go to the pool to swim, or engage in a number of physical activities with your older adult that promotes an active lifestyle.
Lastly, exercise is a habit that is maintained through positive thinking. You can offer your support by helping the older adult in your life fight through the doubts they may have about working out. For instance, they may feel discouraged that they don’t see results right away. As their support system, you can reassure them that results can take weeks, even a couple of months to appear. If they’re worried about falling or injuring themselves, you can introduce exercises that reduce their risk of falling such as yoga poses from a chair or cycling on a seated machine.
The Perfect Workout Routine
If you have an older adult in your life you would like to support, it’s important to know how to practically implement exercise into your everyday life. That’s why we’ve put together the perfect workout routine for your older adult.
It is recommended that those 65 and older get an average of 150 minutes of exercise per week. The best forms of exercise for older adults are aerobic exercise, cardio exercises such as walking or cycling, and strength training. Yoga is also a great form of exercise for older adults as it promotes flexibility, mobility, and strength while being easy on joints and easy to perform.
An exercise routine should alternate days of working out and rest. On Monday, for example, you could encourage the older adult in your life to practice aerobic exercise by walking or cycling for 30 minutes. The following day is a rest day, and Wednesday they can perform another exercise. You can alternate between strength training, water aerobics, yoga, or whatever they seem to prefer! You can also devote entire days of exercise to just yoga if you’re experiencing muscle soreness or pain.
It is important to us that we take care of the older adults in our lives. They have sacrificed so much to improve our lives and care for us, so walking alongside them as they implement exercise in their lives can make a world of difference. When we offer our emotional, physical, and verbal encouragement, our older loved ones can find the strength and motivation they need to exercise regularly, promote their health and wellbeing, and thrive in their active lives.