Exercise packs tremendous benefits for people of all ages–especially aging Americans. Learn why incorporating light activity to moderate exercise is an essential part of elder care.
- “Inactivity increases with age. By age 75, about one in three men and one in two women engage in no physical activity.”
- Low energy and lower muscle mass in seniors are associated with inactivity.
- Seniors who receive support from family members, friends, and caregivers are more likely to exercise than peers without social support.
Better Physical Health
The reason respite care and elder care put such a heavy focus on exercise is that it drastically improves physical health–and in several different ways, too.
Eating healthy and exercising improves the immune system, helps seniors heal faster, and reduces chronic inflammation. Exercise also reduces the likelihood of certain types of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure.
Plus, regular exercise combats osteoporosis and strengthens bones. The more seniors exercise, the stronger and more mobile they become. Staying strong is important for overall health and longevity. Falls are one of the leading causes of death among seniors, with 25% passing after falling and breaking a hip.
Tangible Mental Health Benefits
Physical activity promises mental health benefits, too. Elder care workers promote exercise because it staves off anxiety and depression, boosts mood and self-confidence, promotes restful sleep, and even decreases the chances of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Exercise “can help brain functions as diverse as multitasking and creativity and can help prevent memory loss, cognitive decline, and dementia,” HelpGuide writes.
Tips For Safe Senior Exercise
- Build a support system. Friends and family, caregivers, and companions can all help aging Americans stick to their exercise routines. In fact, an important part of in-home care or elder care is encouraging and managing exercise. Caregivers will consider seniors’ ability, range of motion, and doctors’ and/or physical therapists’ instructions. Using that information, they will assist with medically approved exercise plans or promote appropriate exercises.
- Do what you can. Even light to moderate physical activity is better than not exercising at all. If all you can manage is gardening, walking, or doing chores around the house, that counts! It is important for seniors to develop a routine and stick to it. Ask home health care aides to help you stay accountable. Keep in mind that exercise can be easily modified or adapted to your abilities as well. For example, use yoga blocks and modified poses to continue to practice yoga. Lift light weights while sitting instead of standing. Choose bodyweight exercises with modifications, like doing push-ups on your knees or swapping tuck jumps out with high-knee marches.
- Liven it up. While it is not always the case, some people simply do not like to exercise. The prospect of doing situps and lifting weights bores them, or even fills them with dread. With the right outlook, exercise can be something to look forward to. Find an activity you genuinely enjoy. Dancing, gardening, golfing, and playing fetch with a dog all constitute exercise. Add some excitement to dull exercises by watching TV while on the treadmill, listening to an audiobook while lifting weights or doing bodyweight exercises, and/or window shopping during walks around the mall.
- If seniors are unaccustomed to exercise or adopting a new routine, it is always best to take it slow. Slowly introduce new exercise and, if approved by a doctor, add to exercise programs as you go. Drink plenty of water, and wear a smartwatch or heart rate monitor while exercising for an extra bit of security.
If you want to live a long, healthy life and retain quality of life as you age, exercise is a must! According to the National Institute for Fitness and Sport (NIFS), physical activity reduces mortality — for any reason — by an impressive 30 to 80%.
Work with your doctor and elder care aide to determine the exercise routine that is best for you.