Whether we’re hearing it from our doctors, athletic friends, or concerned family members, the message is always the same: “Exercise is good for you!” While that fact is certainly true, it isn’t always so easy to put into action. Before you know it, years have passed without you ever picking up a weight or jumping on a treadmill, and you’re stuck in a stiff and sluggish body. This may explain why only 28% to 34% of adults aged 65 to 74 are physically active; as we’re about to learn, it’s more vital for them than any other age group.
As we age, our body begins to deteriorate: muscles weaken, joints get worn down, and flexibility is greatly reduced. To add insult to injury, our ability to recover — from a fall, a break, or even a bruise — is markedly hindered. With 75% of Americans experiencing even just foot pain at some point in their lives, the probability of being inflicted with injury or chronic pain is quite high. By failing to eat well and stay active, we can exacerbate an already difficult situation; immune systems become compromised and simple day-to-day tasks start to look like impassable mountains. Beyond a healthy diet, simple stretching and muscle massage can do wonders for the body. In fact, massage has become so popular that more than fifty-four million Americans discussed the benefits of the practice with their health care provider in July 2014 alone.
By exercising, we can combat and even reverse those negative changes. Check out these three major benefits of elderly exercise.
- Boosted Immune Function: Strong, healthy bodies are inherently more capable of fighting off infection and disease, and will do so more quickly than unhealthy bodies. Rather than sapping energy reserves completely, recovery takes less of a physical toll.
- Strong Bones: Bone loss — a major problem for those above the age of 65 — can be prevented through exercise. Physical activity increases bone density, which in turn reduces the risk of osteoporosis and lowers the chance that a fall will result in a fracture or break.
- Improved Stability: Exercise, regardless of the chosen form (running, tennis, etc.), teaches your body how to move without losing its balance. Since aging adults have slower reflexes and are intrinsically less stable on their feet, they often suffer from slips and falls; routine exercise reduces the odds of slips and falls in the first place.
Remarkably, that’s not all. A new study in Minnesota has been focusing on whether or not exercise can help prevent the development of dementia in aging adults. The study is based on a theory that physical activity reduces the buildup of amyloid plaques that can disrupt neurons; it is also thought that exercise can prevent shrinkage of the hippocampus lobes of the brain, which play a role in the storage of memories. Though nothing definitive has been proven yet, the possibility of combating a disease that currently affects 5.7 million Americans is quite exciting.
With over 10,000 people reaching retirement age (65 years old) every day in the U.S., the need for a consistent exercise routine suited to their age bracket is higher than ever. Fortunately, there are many low-impact sports and activities, such as Tai Chi, available to choose from.