The benefits of exercise for older adults are well documented.
As you age, your body changes and you face different health challenges. Which makes it even more important to put in the effort to stay healthy and active.
Exercise has so many incredible benefits that go beyond physical health, too.
The best part? You don’t have to be a fitness buff to reap the benefits of exercise — any type of movement is good for you.
We’ll determine how often you should exercise and also go over the 10 incredible benefits of exercise for older adults.
How Often Should Seniors Exercise?
While the benefits of exercise for older adults are undeniable, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to how often older adults should exercise.
The best approach is to first determine how fit you are. You can consult with a doctor, fitness trainer, or another healthcare provider to develop an individualized exercise plan that takes into account your current fitness level, any health conditions you may have, and your goals for physical activity.
In general, however, most experts recommend that older adults get at least 150 minutes (2 and ½ hours) of moderate aerobic activity per week. But that doesn’t mean that you have to do it all in one go. Breaking up your exercise into shorter sessions throughout the day can help make it more manageable over time (plus, it’s easier to recover from exercise).
If you’re just starting to get active, start slowly using the magic of micro-steps, and gradually increase your activity level as you become fitter. And remember, even a little bit of exercise is better than none at all, especially if you turn it into a long-term habit.
Why You Need to Be Active: 10 Benefits of Exercise for Older Adults
#1 Improve Cardiovascular Health
Regular aerobic activity can reduce your risk for coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure or stroke by as much as 62%. It strengthens your muscles and increases their ability to use oxygen, which leads to a healthier heart that pumps blood more efficiently.
In addition, studies show that regular physical activity also lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol levels while raising HDL (good) cholesterol levels. And it also regulates high blood pressure.
All of these effects combined can reduce your risk of having a heart attack or stroke. If you already have cardiovascular disease, combining physical activity with a healthy diet significantly improves your health outcomes.
And in case you’re not a big fan of running, this doesn’t mean that you have to start running. Studies show that walking can be just as beneficial for cardiovascular health — so just start incorporating more aerobic exercise daily.
#2 Reduce Risk of Falls
One of the most common injuries among seniors is falling. In fact, every 11 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall.
But exercise can help reduce your risk of falling. A study found that exercise reduces fall rates in community-dwelling older people by 23%.
And the benefits of exercise for older adults don’t stop there. If you do fall, you’re less likely to be seriously injured and you’ll recover faster and easier if you’re physically active.
All in all, it’s worth taking a preventative approach to your risk of falling as you age. So here are 9 fall prevention exercises to get you started.
#3 Improve Mental Health & Mood
We all know that exercise is beneficial for your physical health, but what about your mental health? It turns out that exercise is a very powerful tool for improving your mood and boosting your overall sense of well-being.
You’ve likely heard of the runners high. It’s what happens when you exercise and your body releases endorphins, natural painkillers that improve mood and create a sense of well-being.
Not to mention the feeling of accomplishment you get after completing a good workout session. And we’ve seen it hundreds of times – the compounding effect of accomplishing one thing first, and that leading to accomplishing even more.
Exercise is a physical accomplishment that serves a solid foundation for achieving more of your retirement goals and dreams.
And it’s not just your mental health that benefits from exercise – research has shown that regular physical activity can also help improve cognitive function in older adults, which brings us to our next exercise benefit.
#4 Enhance Cognitive Function
A growing body of research suggests that physical activity can help seniors and older adults keep their minds sharp. Beyond maintaining existing cognitive skills — there is compelling evidence that exercise can actually help improve brain function by up to 15%.
Research suggests that exercise reduces inflammation in the brain, improves blood flow, and even promotes new brain cell growth. Think of it as taking your brain to the gym.
So if you’re looking for a way to improve your neuroplasticity and cognitive function, consider adding some exercise to your retirement routine.
#5 Reduce Stress and Anxiety
Physical activity is the best natural stress-relief there is. Just think of how clear-minded and at peace you were the last time you were physical.
This happens because the levels of the body’s stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, decrease with exercise. Not to mention, any form of exercise requires concentration, which means you also reap the benefits of mindfully enjoying the activity. It’s like meditation in motion.
If you’re feeling stressed out, try taking a quick walk or doing some other form of cardio exercise right away. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you start to feel better. And our next benefit goes hand in hand with relaxation, too.
#6 Improve Sleep Quality
If you’re like most people, you probably don’t get enough exercise. And if you’re not getting enough exercise, it’s likely affecting your sleep. Exercise is a crucial part of staying healthy as you age, and it can have a profound impact on the quality of your sleep.
Older adults who exercise regularly tend to sleep better than those who don’t. They fall asleep more easily, sleep for longer periods of time, and get more high-quality sleep.
If you struggle with insomnia, we have some great news. Studies have shown that just four weeks of consistent exercise helps chronic insomniacs fall asleep up to 13 minutes faster and stay asleep for 18 minutes longer.
#7 Increase Strength & Flexibility
One of the benefits of exercise for older adults is that it can help to increase strength and flexibility. This is especially important as you age, since your muscles and joints tend to become weaker and less flexible.
Strength training exercises are a great way to prevent this from happening, and they can also help to relieve pain in conditions like arthritis. And flexibility exercises are also important for maintaining the range of motion in our joints. These can be simple stretches that you do at home, or more advanced yoga or pilates classes.
Either way, adding some flexibility training into your weekly routine can be incredibly beneficial for your health as you age.
#8 Reduce the Risk of Disease
Exercise has been shown to be beneficial in reducing the risk of developing many chronic diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, and type II diabetes. Older adults are especially susceptible to these conditions, so it is important to do everything you can to reduce your risk.
In addition to reducing the overall risk of developing these diseases, exercise has also been shown to improve symptoms and management for those who already have them.
If you are dealing with any chronic conditions, make sure to talk to your doctor about starting an exercise program. It could make a world of difference in your health.
Just look to successful Rewire My Retirement student Danny van Leeuwen, who – despite his 15-year MS diagnosis – uses the power of micro-steps to consistently exercise and lead one of the most robust retirement lifestyles of anyone we know.
#9 Prevent Bone Loss
Exercise helps to increase bone density and reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis, a condition that causes bones to become weak and brittle. And weight-bearing and resistance exercises are the most effective for building bone density.
Your bones naturally become thinner and more fragile with age, which makes them more susceptible to breaks and fractures.
To combat this, try adding some strength training to your routine a few times per week. A little bit of exercise goes a long way in keeping your bones healthy and preventing problems down the road.
#10 Bolster Immunity
By keeping your body active and healthy, you can help ward off infection and illness.
Regular exercise has been linked with a reduced risk of developing colds and other upper respiratory infections. Yes, this also means Covid-19. It does this by allowing white blood cells to work more effectively.
And exercise also increases blood flow, lowers stress and inflammation, and can improve antibody strength.
So if you’re looking for one more reason to hit the gym or go for a walk around the block, consider this: exercising may just help you stay away from the doctor’s office.
Break a Sweat to Become Your Best Fit Self
The benefits of exercise for older adults are undeniable. And it’s one of the best ways to improve your health in retirement.
By committing to regular exercise you can:
- #1 Improve your cardiovascular health — regular aerobic activity does wonders for your heart health
- #2 Reduce your risk of falls — not only will being fit make you less likely to fall, but it also improves your health outcomes if you do fall
- #3 Improve your mental health and mood — exercise releases brain chemicals that elevate your mood
- #4 Enhance cognitive function — physical activity clears your mind and keeps it sharp
- #5 Reduce stress and anxiety — relieve yourself of any stress and anxiety with a good sweat session
- #6 Improve your sleep quality — you get a more sound good night’s rest when you work out
- #7 Increase your strength & flexibility — both of these are vital contributors to your overall health and wellbeing
- #8 Reduce risk of disease — prevent and better manage chronic diseases through fitness
- #9 Prevent bone loss — as you engage in physical activities, your bones gain density
- #10 Boost your immunity — exercise contributes to building a resilient immune system
Don’t let age be an excuse to lead a sedentary lifestyle. Overcome the barriers to exercise, get out there, and get moving — your mind and body will thank you for it.