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How to Stay Fit and Healthy in Later Life

Some people think that exercise is something for younger people. Yet, being sedentary is a big problem no matter what your age. About 60 percent of adult Americans don’t meet the recommended physical guidelines. Exercise is an essential lifelong activity that offers numerous health benefits.

Benefits of Staying Fit

Staying fit and healthy will improve your quality of life on several fronts as you age. A review published in the International Journal of Clinical Practice found that regular exercise is linked with a reduced risk of heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States and the global community. Other health benefits include:

Types of Exercise

The recommended guidelines for physical activity are 150 minutes of moderate intensity cardio exercise and two weekly sessions of strength training. Each type of exercise helps you in different ways.

  • Weight-Bearing Exercises

Weight-bearing exercises like walking or running help you maintain bone mass. As you age, your bones become less dense, and thus, more prone to damage. Women and older individuals are at a greater risk. However, this can occur at any age. Even short walks can make a difference.

  • Balance Exercises

Balance exercises like yoga and Pilates offer gentle ways to stretch and strengthen your muscles, especially in your core. Strong abdominal muscles will assist with balance and can help reduce falls, a common occurrence in older adults. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 25 percent of adults over 65 experience a fall each year.

These exercises can also help prevent back problems. Strong core muscles provide better support for your back. A study by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation found that back issues ranked third among the costliest health expenses at a yearly expense of nearly $90 billion. Fortunately, these exercises aren’t taxing, so you can do them every day.

  • Strength Training Exercises

Think you’re too old to lift weights? Think again! A study published in the journal, Age of the American Aging Association, considered the effects of strength training on individuals aged 90 and higher. Researchers found that after a 12-week training program, participants showed improvements in walking speed, muscle mass, and the ability to get up from a chair.

While you may not be thinking about little things like standing up, they can make a significant difference in elderly individuals. Remember that even for those living in assisted living facilities, the independence that comes from the ability to get around and take care of yourself is priceless. But it requires staying active.

  • Aerobic Workouts

Walking can suffice as an aerobic workout as you age. From a practical point of view, it’s easy and free. But it also offers additional benefits. Spending time in nature can improve your mental well-being. A review published in the journal, Environmental Science and Technology, found that exercising outdoors improved a person’s mental health more than working out indoors.

The benefits of staying fit and healthy make a good case for finding time to work out even as you age. However, it’s essential to check with your doctor before starting any new exercise regime, especially if you have a pre-existing condition or are on any medication.

After all, exercise, though beneficial, still places a strain on your system. Take the time to seek the advice of your doctor about an appropriate amount and type of exercise for you. Once you have obtained the green light to start exercising, you can take a significant step towards ensuring an active and independent life as you move into your golden years.

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