Our bodies are meant to move at any age. If you exercised when you were younger and stopped as you grew older, or never started at all, it’s time to get off the couch or the desk chair or whatever you’re sitting on and get moving. As an older adult, the best gift you can give yourself is regular physical activity. Of course, exercise can do all of the things you already know about—control your weight, combat disease, improve your mood, boost your energy, put the spark back into your sex life, and develop your social life—but it can also combat many of the health problems that come with age.
For those of us who are in our later years, exercise is the closest thing to the fountain of youth. Here are six things it can do for you:
Reduce your risk of developing chronic conditions—such as diabetes, obesity, dementia, heart disease, osteoporosis, and cancers—as well as manage the symptoms of any persistent diseases you may have.
- Improve your memory and brain function by boosting oxygen to the brain, thus improving your cognitive processing, memory recall, and reaction times and reducing the risk of dementia and cognitive decline in later life.
- Build stronger bones in order to improve your balance and coordination and minimize the risk of falls, the most common cause of injury among older people.
- Improve physical function and independence by improving muscle strength and function and providing you with the choice to remain at home, which will then have positive effects on your mental health.
- Recover from illness quickly, which contributes to general good health and a healthy immune system, promote good circulation, and allow your immune system to do its job efficiently.
- Stay socially connected by improving independence to allow you to get out and about, thus preventing feelings of loneliness and poor mental health. Community-based exercise programs can help you build self-confidence and maintain relationships with others.
If you are starting to exercise again after some time away from physical activity, or for the first time ever, you should consult an accredited exercise physiologist, a physical therapist, or your physician.