Regular Exercise Benefits a Senior's Mind and Body

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By: , SparkPeople Blogger
4/27/2012 6:00 AM   :  15 comments   :  10,203 Views

My grandma was a regular walker in the later years of her life.  She never wanted to walk near her Florida condominium because she didn’t want her neighbors to see what she was up to.  So she’d drive to a private beach a few miles away and walk in their parking lot.  (You couldn’t actually see the beach from the parking lot, but that’s another story.)  I remember she looked forward to those walks because they made her feel good.  Eventually she stopped walking, which was right around the time that both her physical and mental health started to decline.  New research validates the idea that regular exercise for seniors has more than just physical benefits.
 
The study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, looked at data from over 100,000 Austrailian seniors (age 65 and over).    Researchers found that 8.4% of the men and women were experiencing some sort of psychological distress such as anxiety or depression.   “Compared to those with no psychological distress, the risk of physical disability was more than four times higher among those with any level of psychological distress and nearly seven times higher among those with moderate levels.  The researchers also found that seniors who were more physically active were less likely to have physical disabilities.”
 
This is just one example of how exercise can have a “trickle down” effect on health.   Regular exercise helps prevent disease and other physical issues.  For seniors, staying healthy helps them keep their independence and successfully continue with activities of daily living.  This in turn, can help prevent mental issues (such as depression) that often come with a loss of independence. 
 
Whether you’re a senior looking to start an exercise program, or you’re trying to help an aging family member or friend become more active, SparkPeople’s Senior Health Lifestyle Center is a great place to start.  You’re never too old to start exercising.  Even if it’s just a 5 minute walk outside to get some fresh air and sunshine, the benefits to your mental and physical health can be significant.
 
What do you think?  If you’re a senior who exercises regularly, what kinds of mental and physical benefits have you found?


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Comments

  • 15
    Regular exercise is definitely a mood enhancer. At 67, I run, swim and cycle regularly. Have done 4 marathons and am training for a 70.3 Ironman. I always feel better after a workout. You don't need to go to extremes with exercise, a short walk or jog will elevate your spirit. It will help you maintain weight too, if done regularly. - 3/14/2014   10:00:36 AM
  • 14
    I really believe being active makes a huge difference. After a fall, my (very active till then) Grandmother stopped walking. Walking kept her in shape and was a way for her to go meet with her friends and socialize. Mentally, she's never been the same since then, it's like her zest for life was snuffed out. - 5/7/2012   5:31:08 PM
  • 13
    I believe this 100%. My Dad was physically active and mentally acute until age of 91. He had to go into a nursing home for various reasons, but is still quite mentally well. - 5/4/2012   12:23:01 PM
  • 12
    My grandmother is 94 years old, and it was only very recently (in the past 1.5 years) that her health started to decline. She had a fall, and walking after that has been a challenge. Even so, for the first 92 years of her life she was healthy, independent, and sharp as a tack. And if you ask her, she'll tell you it's because she had challenging work (elementary teacher) and went for long walks every single day. Exercise really DOES keep you young! - 4/29/2012   8:40:54 PM
  • CAZLINR
    11
    I'm 68 and did a marathon last year. I like the classes at my gym and I run, bike and kayak a lot. What's interesting is that I was not very athletic or active earlier in my life. It just wasn't of any interest to me. I'm still not fast and I'm not one of the better ones in my classes, but once I decided who cares what anyone thinks, I've had a great time and surpassed all my expectations. I love this phase of my life!!! - 4/29/2012   9:44:32 AM
  • 10
    Wow all I know is my dad stopped being active after he retired and he succumbed to Alzheimer's 3 years ago his younger brother has outlived him now and is still going strong. - 4/28/2012   9:42:20 PM
  • 9
    My mother was a sporty person and as she began to suffer from Alzheimers she'd go for walks and forget where she was and who she was. She's one of the lucky ones as my brother and his wife look after her. During the day she has a carer. Mother is now 96 and still capable of walking but needs to be guided all the way as she's forgotten most things. - 4/28/2012   9:06:37 PM
  • ALLYSGRANDMA
    8
    I guess I'm a senior (68), but I sure don't feel like one. Most of it is because I go to the gym 5 days a week. I spend Thursdays with my 3 lively grandsons and I think the only reason I can keep up with them is because of my daily sessions on the treadmill. I also do yoga once or twice a week. I still work and am in better shape than most of the youngsters I work with. I would like to push myself to do more strength training but have trouble motivating myself to go to that part of the gym, - 4/28/2012   8:46:11 PM
  • GAMMER3
    7
    So happy to have read this article. I am a senior and have been very active most of my life but, must admit, over the past year, I have become less so partly because of some physical limitations. It seems now, the less I do, the less I want to do. This was a good wakeup for me, I plan to be around for a long time so, I will try to push past the pain and, "just do it" - 4/28/2012   8:43:12 AM
  • BARRYMETHODYOGA
    6
    Walking is a great exercise for all ages, however I've noticed in my class as a Barry Method Teacher that Senior Citizen loves physical challenges just like anyone else.
    As we know, challenge can keep us motivated and most importantly in shape.
    Being a fitness and rehabilitation trainer for the past 20 years, I am constantly surprised (as well as my clients) how physically strong and capable our Senior Citizen clients are when put to the challenge.
    Having a unique program called the Barry Method, which is a dual combination of yoga and Pilates on a gravity system, clients with knee pain, back pain, arthritis and/or stiffness, can experience a full body workout without having to sacrifice sweat with mild aerobic.
    Since we use the gravity board in our fitness/rehab routine, body alignment and mobility are safely challenged to its optimum level. The Barry Method routine allows anyone, at any age, experience full and accurate Yoga alignments - which is crucial in getting optimal results quickly without suffering with pain or discomfort.
    Classes of the Barry Method are innovative, fun and guaranteed to heal and restore one's body, regardless of age; back to full range of motion with grace and ease.

    Just because certain physical limitations are bound to develop over the years as we age, we still want challenge and the ability to feel alive and strong.
    Choosing the right workout can be our “fountain of youth” if we play it with passion. - 4/28/2012   8:37:42 AM
  • 5
    I'll be 65 this summer and I've been an active walker for about 10 years. I look forward to both my daily walks (about 30 minutes) and my "long" walks (60 to 120 minutes). When the weather is nasty, I put on a DVD, but it isn't the same as being outside in the fresh air (rain?, snow?). - 4/27/2012   2:52:29 PM
  • 4
    I remember a similar situation with my grandmother. In her 50s and 60s she was quite active, regularly walking longer distances in the hilly parts of Pacific Grove. In her 70s she first stopped walking as much, then sort of withdrew, kept the shades drawn so her room was dark, couldn't stand to have great-grandkids around because they were noisy and moved too much. She survived to a few years past 90, but wasn't happy and active the way several of the other great-aunts were - those who lived to their late 90s and one to 103. - 4/27/2012   1:00:35 PM
  • 3
    Walking is wonderful for relieving stress. Problems still exist, but they are not as pressing or depressing after a good walk. The real problem is walking into a state of oblivion that the problems do not esist. - 4/27/2012   9:35:45 AM
  • 2
    I do 10K Volksmarching (walking) events regularly. These events are nationwide, in fact I am working on collecting an event in all 50 states (I have 6 to go). To find out seach youtube for the volkswalk video - 4/27/2012   8:44:58 AM
  • 1
    I am a 65 year old who still works full time and I try to do some form of exercise each day. I think I feel better now than I did in my late 40's & 50's. I had planned to retire this year but now so glad I didn't as I think activity is what makes me feel so good both mentally and physically. - 4/27/2012   8:44:54 AM

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