A natural part of the aging process is a slow slide into a more inactive lifestyle. A study on the lifestyles of older adults found that 67% of older adults are sedentary for more than 8.5 hours of their waking day. This sedentary behaviour is concerning as those who are more active tend to age with better health and report a better quality of life.
The Centre for Disease Control says that the loss of stamina and strength associated with aging is caused by a reduction in physical activity and the World Health Organization (WHO) suggests that adults over 65 should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity every week, as long as their health allows. These sessions of aerobic activity should be done in segments of 10 minutes or more. The WHO goes on to recommend 300 minutes of aerobic activity for increased health benefits.
What are the health benefits of activity for seniors?
There are many benefits to continuing an active lifestyle throughout our lives, but here are some of the most important ones:
- Decreased risk of falls: exercising improves both strength and flexibility, in turn improving coordination and balance. 95% of hip fractures are caused by falls and any fall can result in chronic pain, reduced mobility and loss of independence.
- Disease prevention: routine exercise can lower rates of coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, type 2 diabetes, colon cancer and breast cancer. Even moderate exercise like walking can boost immune functions and keep older adults healthier.
- Improve mental health: active older adults are found to have lower stress. An active lifestyle also contributes to improved and healthier sleep patterns.
- Healthy bones: activity helps maintain bone health and helps control joint swelling and other complications associated with arthritis.
- Improved cognitive functioning: exercise helps maintain cognitive functioning and fine motor skills and has been shown to decrease risks of dementia.
Suggestions to get your heart pumping:
Older adults don’t have to go to the gym to have a healthy and active lifestyle. (They can, of course)
There are many ideas that are suitable for older adults:
- Swimming offers a low impact option for sore joints (and gives an excuse for a few minutes in the hot tub or sauna).
- Even in the winter, many malls are open early for warm, ice-free walking conditions.
- Sit and Be Fit. After 30 years on air on public television, RN and fitness hero Marie Ann Wilson has branched out to DVD, YouTube, home streaming subscriptions, and a blog full of amazing material to keep us all active for many years to come.
- Local fitness activities. Sage Seniors Association publishes a monthly guide for activities including Zumba, Tai Chi, and Yoga offerings.
Be fit and have fun!