September 11, 2018

You may already know that regular exercise is a good way to improve heart health, build muscle, and maintain a healthy weight. But did you know that staying physically active can offer additional benefits, including improved mental and emotional health, better sleep quality, and reduced risk of cognitive decline? Here are some surprising benefits of exercise that will inspire you to stay physically active at any age.

Boost your mood

The mood-boosting benefits of exercising are profound. Studies show that exercising even just a few times each week can reduce stress and anxiety while enhancing overall mood. Physical activity prompts our brains to release “feel good” chemicals such as endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin, which play an important role in regulating our mood and balancing stress hormones. Exercise can provide powerful benefits for older adults, who are often affected by mental health concerns like stress and depression.

Get a better night’s sleep

Older adults need at least seven to nine hours of sleep each night, but many seniors find that they experience insomnia or poor sleep quality as they age. In studies on the effects of exercise and sleep, researchers found older adults who completed a moderate-intensity workout fell asleep quickly, slept longer, and had better quality sleep than they did before exercising. If chronic sleep problems are keeping you up at night, adding moderate exercise to your routine may help you get a full night’s rest.

Prevent falls

As the leading cause of injury-related deaths in seniors over the age of 60, falls are one of the most dangerous health risks faced by older adults. In addition, many older adults have a fear of falling, which can actually increase their likelihood of experiencing a fall. Fortunately, falls can be preventable, and staying active can help. By incorporating exercise into their routines, seniors can build lower body strength and improve balance, all of which can reduce their risk of falling. Many senior living communities have exercise and fitness classes geared toward helping older adults prevent dangerous falls and injuries.

Reduce the risk of dementia

Exercise is not only good for the body, but it’s also good for the brain. According to recent research, exercise is one of the best ways to prevent or slow the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, one of the leading causes of death among older adults. This is because exercise increases blood flow to the brain, helping new brain cells and blood vessels grow while at the same time preventing the degeneration of brain cells that cause cognitive decline.

Maintain independence

Most older adults want to be able to live independently for as long as possible. After all, maintaining independence can promote confidence in older adults and improve their overall quality of life. However, many seniors find themselves experiencing changes with age that may limit their independence, including diminished strength, mobility, and balance. Remaining sedentary can make mobility and balance even worse, but being physically active can actually improve such issues. Participating in low-impact activities on a regular basis can slow muscle loss and improve seniors’ bone strength, helping them stay mobile and independent for longer.

As you can see, exercise provides a wide variety of health benefits for the mind and body. Best of all, staying physically active doesn’t have to feel like a chore. There are many fun, low-impact exercises for seniors to try, such as swimming, walking, yoga, Pilates, and sports like Bocce or Pickleball. By choosing an activity you enjoy, you might even forget that you’re exercising at all!