Some people may believe that once you get to a certain age, you should slow down and not workout as much as you used to. This couldn’t be further from the truth because you should absolutely continue to remain active in your later years, especially if you’ve always been active. You may have to change the way you exercise, but you shouldn’t stop being active altogether.
Exercise is already known to help you maintain a healthy weight, but there’s many more benefits to exercising regularly that benefit both your physical and mental health. Here are three reasons why you should continue to stay as physically active as possible now and especially into your later years.
#1: Decrease Your Risk of Chronic Disease and Illness
The risk of developing heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes increases as we age, and regular exercise is a great way to keep that risk low. Being overweight contributes to your risk of developing either one of these diseases, so regular exercise paired with a healthy diet is the best way to stay healthy and reduce your risk. Some of the best weight-loss exercises include:
- Interval training
- Weight training
Regular exercise (and a healthy diet) can also reduce your risk of developing certain cancers, such as breast cancer, colon cancer, kidney cancer, and rectal cancer. These cancers (other than having a family history) are associated with being overweight, plus the risk of developing cancer increases as we age.
#2: Improves Mental and Cognitive Health
Engaging in exercise has the ability to improve your mood. High-intensity exercise causes the brain to secrete hormones and neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine. These hormones along with endorphins are known to increase mood, making you feel happier and more calm.
These feel-good hormones are important in later life because older adults are also likely to suffer from depression— especially if they’re isolated from the outside world. So exercising can be twice as beneficial for the mental health of older adults: the act of engaging in exercise boosts mood, while exercising with others is great for socialization.
Another concern that comes with older age is cognitive decline. Dementia in all of its forms, including Alzheimer’s disease (which is the most common type of dementia), is more likely to occur in older individuals. There is some research that suggests that an active lifestyle can help decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. High-intensity aerobic exercises such as walking and running can help improve brain function.
#3: Keeps You Independent
Something else that tends to happen as we get older is a decline in mobility. Bones and joints become weaker, which can also affect balance and then we’re at a higher risk of falling and getting seriously injured. Those with limited mobility are more likely to have to live in an assisted living facility— where senior citizens don’t always have the best quality of life. Those with limited mobility especially are at a higher risk of experiencing nursing home neglect and abuse, with some examples being:
- Broken bones and fractures
- Choking accidents
- Developing bed sores from being left in one position too long
- Evidence of physical restraint
- Medication errors
- Physical and sexual abuse
- Wheelchair accidents when transitioning in/out of the wheelchair
Fortunately, regular exercise (paired with a nutritious diet) can help you keep your mobility and allow you to remain independent. Exercises, such as walking, jogging, pilates, yoga, and light weight lifting can all help strengthen bones, joints, and muscles.
Combine this with a diet rich in vitamin D and calcium, and you’ll be able to combat bone-related illnesses such as osteoporosis. Of course you should consult with your doctor before starting any strict diets or vigorous exercise routines.
If you’re already older and you’ve never really been active, it’s not too late to get started. As long as you still have some mobility, you can reap these three benefits of staying active. Just remember that you should always start with moderate, low-impact exercises or with whatever your doctor recommends. You should also stretch really well before and after engaging in exercise to protect your joints.
Even if you’re not in your later years, you’ll still be able to reap these same benefits now. In fact, starting to live a more active lifestyle as early as possible gives you a better chance of maintaining this lifestyle later in life, making it much easier for you to remain active in later life.