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?