Live life to the fullest: Why physical fitness is important at every age

Live life to the fullest: Why physical fitness is important at every age

We hear “take it easy” often, especially directed toward older adults. But that may not be the best advice. Many health concerns are linked to a sedentary lifestyle. Movement can improve overall health and enjoyment of life.

The body reacts positively to exercise. In addition to the endorphin boost, exercise helps loosen and strengthen muscles, slow bone density decline, as well as improve heart health and increase resistance to illness. A study published in Science Direct concluded that among older adults, increased physical activity over a two-year period, was associated with lower healthcare costs compared with those of inactive adults.

Staying fit as you age becomes much more challenging. Our bodies no longer have the energy levels, muscle mass and endurance they once did. This shouldn’t stand in the way of maintaining an appropriate exercise regime. Don’t know where to start? Here are some ideas to help you to achieve and maintain fitness in your senior years.

Take a daily walk

Walking is one of the simplest forms of exercise, and also one of the best. If ability permits, work a 20- to 30-minute walk into your daily routine, at least three days each  week. Walk outside or inside on a treadmill or in a shopping mall. Many malls have morning mall-walking groups before the stores open, perfect for companionship, motivation and safety. And it keeps people out of the harsh weather conditions. If walking outside, stay on a smooth, clear surface to avoid tripping or falling. Enlist a friend to accompany you as a“walking buddy” to help keep you motivated, and most importantly to ensure each other’s safety.

Enroll in a yoga or stretching class

Recognized for its mind, body and spirit connection, yoga is both restorative and strengthening. It does not require expensive equipment, and can be done almost anywhere. According to an article in WebMD, yoga and has been found to improve bone density. Other potential health benefits include stress reduction, immunity support, and management of chronic conditions for people of all ages. Can’t imagine twisting yourself into a Garudasana (Eagle Pose)? There are different types of classes available. Look for one that suites your fitness level and movement ability. The American Senior Fitness Association offers detailed information about the health benefits and recommended poses for older adults. Modifications are always encouraged in any yoga practice. There are also options for chair-bound individuals.

Practice strength exercises

You don’t need to be a bodybuilder or action star in movies to benefit from strength training. Strength training can be performed sitting, standing or reclining, each works different muscle groups. Strength training offers plenty of room for variation. If one area of your body is somewhat immobile, focus on strengthening other areas. Most strength exercise can be modified by using no weights or less range of motion. Exercise videos are a good way to get started. Eldergym.com is a senior fitness resource with helpful exercise videos.

Try some pool therapy

Channel your inner child. Water exercises are enjoyable and ideal for older adults. Pool therapy is effective for healing of injuries. Plus, movement is less painful in warm water than on land. Less stress on joints is critical for those whose joints are compromised or inflamed. The pool is also a good option for those who are at risk of falls. Arm bicycling and rowing are great options for chair-bound adults. To get started, check out the Mayo Clinic’s  slideshow of aquatic exercises.

Sign up for SilverSneakers

Exercise doesn’t always need to involve strenuous workouts or long hours at the gym. Simply incorporating more movement and activity into your life should get you to the fitness level that is right for you. Most Medicare health plans include a membership to programs such as SilverSneakers that help seniors access convenient, appropriate, and often discounted exercise classes and facilities. SilverSneakers also offers access to parks, rec centers and other local venues.

HelpGuide.org has more information about the benefits of exercise as well as safety tips. Also the National Council for Aging Care’s comprehensive guide for Exercising Seniors is a good resource as well. It is important to consult your doctor prior to beginning any exercise program.

Now it’s time to get fit as you grow older, so that you can experience life to its fullest. A little exercise goes a long way. Don’t get discouraged. Change it up as you go. Explore new methods. Exercise with a friend or family member. Get outside in the fresh air. Just move.

At Baywood our staff is passionate about supporting our clients to live life to the fullest through our in-home care services. Baywood’s services extend throughout the greater Minneapolis / St. Paul metro, and south central and southwestern Minnesota,.Our Home Health Aides will help in arranging exercise activities, support you as you work toward fitness in your senior years, and help you reach and maintain optimal wellness.