Benefits of Exercise for the Older Adults
Physical fitness declines with age. You may find that you are losing strength and stamina as you are getting older. How, then, can we keep our bodies functioning well as we age? This article will outline various exercises seniors might do to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
In short, ideal exercises for the elderly are simple, doable, and keep older individuals active. Engagement may vary with physical, mental, environmental, and psychosocial factors; nonetheless, it is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle by keeping active.
Difficulty in doing physical activity may result from having a chronic disease. Cardiovascular, respiratory, urologic, or breathing problems, anything affecting mobility, and the ability to tolerate day-to-day activities are big factors.
Further, environmental factors such as lack of space or familial support can prevent seniors from exercising. The article will suggest some gentle exercises for patients who may be limited.
Health Benefits of Exercise for Seniors
Increased Energy Levels
Being active increases energy levels, keeping you from draining easily. Doing a sustainable physical activity will also keep you attuned to your limit and capacity for exertion. To further increase energy levels outside of exercise, we advise doing these activities.
Improved Strength and Endurance
Muscle mass decreases by 2% and strength by 15% per year after the age of 50. As long as older individuals are capable, strength/resistance training is recommended to improve and prolong independence and quality of life.
According to a systematic review from 2017, older adults should be encouraged to participate in progressive resistance training activities. These can be implemented as part of a daily routine to improve mobility according to a recommended daily amount. Strength training can also improve the speed of walking, balance, and reduces the risk of falls.
Endurance, on the other hand, is the ability to sustain moderate exercise for a long period of time. It is recommended for patients with cardiovascular and respiratory problems.
Endurance training improves circulation, allowing blood flow to exceed its regular limits, whether it be walking, jogging, aerobics, bicycling, or running on the treadmill.
Further, Harvard Health Publishing asserts that endurance exercises can also improve the body’s metabolism, reducing body fat, sensitizing the body’s tissues to insulin, and lowering blood sugar levels. Exercise boosts the HDL (“good”) cholesterol and lowers levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and triglycerides.
Improved Cognitive Function such as Memory
Exercise stimulates the human brain’s ability to maintain old network connections and make new ones that are vital to cognitive health. It can also increase functionality in the hippocampus resulting in improved learning and memory abilities.
It is important for older adults to maintain cognitive health as well. These are the activities that don’t involve physical exertion, but rather, doing activities with the mind.
According to a 2016 study, combining cognitive stimulating activities and physical exercise can improve recovery from stroke. While it is difficult to determine a causal relationship with physical exercise in this case, brain function did improve in a study involving 12 weeks of aerobic training.
Exercise resulted in higher resting cerebral blood flow in the anterior cingulate region and improved immediate and delayed memory scores compared to the control group. Thus, higher fitness levels improved bodily function as well as cognitive abilities.
Regular exercise may also benefit older individuals with conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s Disease (habitual manner), Huntington’s Disease (resistance and endurance), and Multiple Sclerosis. Indeed, early Alzheimer’s patients experienced improved memory following aerobic exercise.
Reduced Risk of Health Problems and Mortality
Older adults are encouraged to do physical activities for healthier aging. Engaging in high levels of physical activity will reduce the risk of disability and depleting function in the next 10 years.
Further, doing so lowers the risk of developing cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke, especially if doing activities that consume 3000-4000 MET minutes/week.
Sedentary lifestyle can increase the chance of mortality; mortality rate and physical activity have an inverse relationship, meaning that performing regular physical activity can decrease mortality.
In a study of American women, higher levels of physical activity were associated with 40-50% lower all-cause, cardiovascular disease, and cancer mortality rates compared with women with lower activity levels. [source?]
Older individuals are also encouraged to do physical activity if their cardiac health is in decline. This may be prescribed as an intervention in a controlled setting if the disease is medically stable. However, safety remains a concern, so it is necessary to monitor any unusual symptoms.
Guidelines and Precautions for your Exercise Plan
The Center for Disease and Control Prevention released guidelines on how to make an exercise routine best suited for older adults depending on their training goals.
In general, older adults who sit less and do any amount of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity can expect to gain some health benefits.
The guideline for older adults to manage conditions like diabetes, arthritis, or heart disease is to engage in moderate-intensity aerobic activity for at least 150 minutes a week. Such exercise might include activities like walking, swimming, or jogging, combined with at least 2 days a week of strength training.
To account for any physical disabilities resulting from a sedentary lifestyle and the frailty that may come with age, supervision is required when possible. Pay attention to breathing patterns, reaction to each exercise, and any unusual symptoms. Remember to use caution and listen to your body.
Of course, not everyone can meet the general guidelines from the CDC. Therefore, it is advisable to check with a doctor before proceeding with any exercise program. You can also consult a physical therapist, exercise coach, or anyone who has your best interest in mind for an appropriate exercise regimen.
Most Effective Exercise Options for the Elderly
Aerobics for Cardiovascular Health
Aerobic exercise improves the endurance, cardiovascular health, and blood flow of the patient. Common examples include taking a brisk 1-hour walk, jogging, cycling, or joining a dance class. The minimum interval for best results is 30 minutes of sustained activity.
Water aerobics is one of the newest trends that is recommended to older adults. This is because it promotes endurance and relieves stiff joints, especially if you are suffering from arthritis. It is also an efficient way to lose weight as water provides extra resistance.
Brisk walking or jogging each day, or even every other day, is a popular way to engage in cardio exercise. Some also find this to be a peaceful and solitary activity that clears the mind, especially in the morning.
Walking a pet may also encourage brisk walking. However, you must be mindful of your body and avoid letting your pet lead you beyond your limit. Take note of how many minutes you can tolerate and increase the length of your walk over time.
If you feel like you’re extremely fatigued, dizzy, or have any pain in your back after walking (intermittent claudication), consult your doctor.
Chair Exercises may Accommodate Frail Patients
Chair exercises are recommended for patients who are frail and cannot stand for very long and may also be beneficial if you are feeling stiff from sitting all day. Mobility exercises, yoga, stretching, and even strengthening of our arms and legs are some examples of seated exercise.
Taiichi and Yoga are Low-Impact and Gentle
Taiichi is a form of internal Chinese martial art meaning “shadowboxing” that has been used as a form of low-impact fitness. It is a self-paced system, non-competitive, of gentle stretching and physical exercise. Each posture transforms into the next posture without break, which makes sure that the body remains in motion constantly.
Yoga focuses on breathing patterns and staying in position for a long period of time. It promotes balance, strength, and flexibility. A simple reaching of the feet is a form of yoga.
Observing your breathing is the best way to see if a position is right for you. As both a strength and balance exercise, yoga may also prove effective fall prevention training.
Resistance Exercise Improves Muscular Health
Resistance exercise can improve muscle mass in the elderly. The improvement of strength, balance, and coordination may result in an increased ability to perform day-to-day activities.
Further, elderly people will be able to sustain certain positions like sitting, standing, or carrying items with regained strength, increasing independence, and decreasing frailty.
A gentle way to incorporate resistance training is to use a resistance band, which will not be as strenuous as traditional weights. It is important to train the abdominal muscles for core strength.
However, resistance training is not recommended for those with very low physical fitness or multiple comorbidities. Strength is nonetheless necessary to get up on the bed, sitting to stand, and maintaining good posture. An injury should be prevented by using the proper exercise equipment, load, and frequency for each individual.
Conclusion – A Combination of Exercises is Recommended for Improved Health and Quality of Life in the Elderly.
Leading a sedentary lifestyle may exacerbate the frailty that comes with age; to prolong a healthy and productive life, elderly patients should regularly engage in some form of moderate-to-vigorous exercise.
Aerobic exercise improves cardiovascular health and endurance, and resistance training increases muscle mass for increased independence. Further, Taiichi and yoga are gentle, low-impact options, and chair exercises can be used to accommodate the frailest patients.
If you are looking for a workout to follow, then I suggest you read the best workout DVD for seniors.