As you age, your physical body breaks down in a variety of ways that can impact you both cognitively and emotionally. Of course, you can combat these changes with pharmaceuticals, but many people find that drugs are only one sided in that they only help combat one specific problem. For a more multi-faceted solution, many seniors turn to physical exercise, and although you might think exercise will only build up your body, it can actually provide a holistic health solution that impacts your mind and soul. As such, it is one of the most well-rounded solutions to combatting the decline of old age.
First and foremost, exercise builds your body’s strength. Walking, for instance, is a low-impact exercise that will help strengthen your cardiovascular system, improving your breathing and helping you to maintain a low resting heart rate. In addition to cardiovascular benefits, it can also help your stamina, allowing you to spend more time with friends or work longer around the house.
However, it also helps your bones. For instance, lifting relatively heavy weights can help build bone mass. Since many seniors lose bone mass as they age, weightlifting is one of the most beneficial exercises available. Finally, both walking and lifting weights will build up your thigh and calf muscles, providing greater stability. Since fall-related injuries are more common as you age, maintaining strong lower-body muscles via exercise is critical to keeping you healthy.
Although aging will not lead inevitably to depression, many people find that exercise actually keeps their spirits high and their outlook on life positive. Such positivity results from the fact that exercise triggers the release of endorphins, which help increase positive feelings while also decreasing pain. In addition to making you feel happier, exercise also reduces the production of cortisol, which is a hormone related to stress. Finally, exercise also reduces adrenaline, helping you to relax. As a whole-body mood booster, exercise is the go-to solution for seniors wanting to maintain a positive frame of mind.
Dementia is a catch-all phrase for a group of symptoms that describe mental decline. Such mental decline usually includes the following symptoms.
– faulty memory
– struggling with normal conversations
– erratic moods
– difficulty completing day-to-day tasks and chores
When it comes to exercise, researchers have found that aerobic exercise helps prevent decrease in brain size. Specifically, they discovered that exercise helps maintain the physical size of the hippocampus, an area of the brain that can shrink with the onset of dementia. The primary benefit comes from exercise’s impact on helping to oxygenate blood vessels in the brain. Additionally, it helps fight inflammation, which contributes to dementia and loss of brain mass.
Simply put, if you want your memory to remain clear and functional, you have to move your body. Cardiovascular and aerobic activities are proven to help you maintain your memory as you age. In addition to exercising having a positive impact on the hippocampus, a part of the brain that is related to memory, researchers have also discovered that exercise is positively correlated with coordination and strong memory.
Although memory of general tasks improves with exercise, the greatest positive impact occurs with verbal memory and learning. The interesting thing to note is that weight training does not help your memory. If you want to boost your memory and remain able to easily learn new tasks, you should focus on low-impact cardiovascular exercises, such as bicycling, walking, or jogging.
Unfortunately, seniors have a higher chance of getting a life-threatening disease, and one of the most common is diabetes. Insulin is a chemical that is released in your body to help you metabolize sugar. Depending on your diet, your body can eventually become immune to the positive effects of insulin. When this happens, your body has a more difficult time transforming sugar into energy, and your blood-sugar levels increase.
When this process of insulin resistance reaches a certain peak, you have what is known as adult-onset diabetes. Since over 33 percent of people 65 years or older have diabetes, exercise is an important therapeutic activity because it helps burn sugar in your blood, which, in turn, helps your body remain sensitive to insulin. In fact, exercise’s impact on insulin sensitivity is so dramatic that if you engage in regular aerobic or cardiovascular activity, you can eventually reverse diabetes.
Exercise helps improve sleep quality by helping to initially raise your body temperature, which then triggers a subsequent decrease in body temperature a few hours later. Researchers have found that this post-workout drop in body temperature contributes to drowsiness. Being able to relax is one of the key components required for people wanting a restful night, so if you exercise in the late afternoon, your body temperature will drop a few hours later. When it does, your body becomes primed to sleep.
Additionally, exercise helps strengthen the bronchial airways and reduce inflammation, and the result is a reduced chance of developing sleep apnea. Finally, the aforementioned drop in cortisol and adrenaline levels as a result of exercise will help increase relaxation, which gives older individuals a better chance to sleep throughout the night.
In addition to all the physical and emotional benefits, exercise helps seniors maintain their independence for years as compared to older individuals who do not exercise. For instance, there are many diseases that result in people having to live with family members due to an increased need for medical care, and these diseases include the aforementioned diabetes.
However, colon cancer and high blood pressure can result in a significant decrease in quality of life such that the sufferer requires supervision at home. Exercise has been shown to positively impact one’s chances to avoid getting colon cancer, and it is positively correlated with healthy blood pressure. Additionally, since exercise helps keep seniors coordinated and strong, they can remain independent longer without fear of falling or injuring themselves.
In addition to the physical benefits that help seniors remain independent, exercise also helps seniors remain more social. For instance, group exercises help combat loneliness, which can afflict seniors and lead to increased depression.