The Benefits of Staying Active While Aging

active aging

So, you’re not as young as you used to be…

Your joints ache, your knees hurt, and you’re pretty sure your back will never be completely straight again. We understand—it happens to everyone! But just because you’re getting older doesn’t mean you have to stop being active. In fact, regular exercise is a critical part of a healthy senior lifestyle.1
Read on to find out just how much good exercise can do for you—plus pointers on how to implement exercise into your everyday routine.

Benefits

While regular exercise is important for people of all ages, it can be particularly beneficial for seniors. Here are just a few of these benefits2:

  1. Helps reduce blood pressure & cholesterol
  2. Helps maintain healthy bones, muscles, and joints
  3. Lowers risk for heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer
  4. Better quality sleep
  5. Reduced cognitive decline
  6. Increased balance and coordination
  7. Increased stamina and muscle strength
  8. Improves mood & helps symptoms of anxiety & depression
  9. Helps control arthritic joint swelling and pain
  10. Increased sense of independence and confidence

What can you do?

So, what can you do to stay fit? Some of the most popular senior fitness activities are things you probably already do to some extent—things like walking, gardening, and yard work. Another great option for more structured physical activity is taking classes from a local gym or fitness club. Many community gyms, like the YMCA, offer a variety of senior fitness classes, including yoga, Zumba, swimming, and cycling.

A common misconception about exercising as a senior is that if it isn’t hurting, it isn’t working. This could not be more false! Physical activity does not need to be strenuous to achieve health benefits3. You don’t need to be out lifting massive weights or running sprints for hours like people in their 20s to stay healthy. Our exercise routines should change based on our age and physical capabilities. While your average 25-year-old might need to jog every day and do weight circuits to stay fit, you certainly don’t have to. As you get older, your body doesn’t require the same levels of exertion as it used to in order to stay healthy.

Here are some general guidelines to follow when planning your exercise routine:

  1. Go for a mix of aerobic and strength exercises for the best results.
  2. For aerobic activities…
    1. Aim for 2.5 hours of moderate aerobic activity per week (30 minutes per day).
    2. Chose aerobic activities that make your heart beat faster, but don’t cause shortness of breath, chest pain, or extreme discomfort.
  3. For strengthening activities…
    1. Do strengthening activities 2 days a week.
    2. Try using light hand weights or resistance bands to build strength.
  4. You can also try balance activities, like tai chi or yoga.

What Caregivers and Loved Ones Can Do

Tackling a new or unfamiliar experience like exercise can often seem daunting and unachievable, especially for seniors. Social support from both family and friends has constantly shown positive results related to senior physical activity4. Simply offering to take a walk with them, helping them do yard work, or inviting them to attend a class at your local gym can help seniors build healthy habits in a familiar, social environment.

Keep in Mind…

Older adults should consult with a physician to make sure their exercise plan works for their body and lifestyle.5

Don’t let your Age
hold you back from an Active
life!

Additional Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “Physical Activity and Health: Older Adults,” a Report by the Surgeon General.
AARP’s “Senior Fitness and Active Lifestyles.”
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ “Stay Active As You Get Older: Quick Tips,” a Healthfinder publication
National Institute on Aging’s “Go4Life” initiative.
National Institute on Aging’s “Real-Life Benefits of Exercise and Physical Activity,” a Go4Life publication.

1. [https://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/sgr/olderad.htm]

2. [Note: benefits may or may not manifest themselves in every individual. Benefits may manifest themselves to different extents in different individuals. It is not guaranteed that every benefit will be manifest in every individual]

3. [https://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/sgr/olderad.htm]

4. [Ibid]

5. [Ibid]