National Senior Health and Fitness Day: Staying Fit to Stay Healthy
Today is National Senior Health and Fitness Day--a day dedicated to helping to keep older Americans healthy and fit as part of Older Americans Month. While there will be many events taking place around the country designed to get our seniors up and moving, it is also a great reminder of the importance of exercising regularly throughout the year.
Seniors experience myriad benefits from participating in a regular exercise regimen, including:
Living longer. According to the World Health Organization, a sedentary lifestyle is one of 10 leading causes of death and disability. Even light, low-impact regular exercise such as walking or swimming can increase an individual’s lifespan by approximately three to five years.
Preventing falls. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that one in four adults over the age of 65 fall each year. Even more startling is the fact that falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of nonfatal trauma-related hospital admission among older adults--so much so that in 2016 the CDC created the Stopping Elderly Accidents, Deaths, and Injuries (STEADI) initiative to help healthcare providers make fall prevention routine.
Exercise improves muscle strength, bone density and balance, each of which is an essential component in reducing the risk of falls. The World Health Organization says regular exercise can reduce the risk of having a hip fracture by up to 40%.
Reducing the risk of stroke or heart attack. Regular cardiovascular exercise that raises the heart rate increases blood flow to the heart and can improve overall health. Exercises include brisk walking, cycling, dancing or even light housework.
Improving bone density. According to The National Osteoporosis Society, one in two women and one in five men over the age of 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis. Both weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercises can help build and maintain bone density. Weight-bearing exercises include walking, dancing, low-impact aerobics or gardening, while muscle-strengthening exercises include lifting weights, using elastic bands and functional movements such as standing and rising up on one’s toes.
Reducing the decline in mental function. Studies show that physical activity helps improve memory, reasoning, judgement and thinking skills for people with mild cognitive impairment. Research also shows that exercise can delay the onset and slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Physical activity not only keeps the blood flowing but also increases the neuroprotective chemicals in the brain. In fact, it is so widely accepted that exercise can help prevent dementia that the World Health Organization recommend that individuals 65 and older engage in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week, or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise per week.
Preventing or delaying chronic illness. Exercise is an effective treatment option for many chronic conditions. Studies show that people with arthritis, heart disease, or diabetes benefit from regular activity. It helps manage high cholesterol by keeping cholesterol levels within a healthy range, thus reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Boosting mood and self-confidence. When we exercise, our bodies release endorphins. These chemicals interact with the receptors in our brains that reduce the perception of pain. They also trigger a positive feeling in the body, helping to reduce feelings of sadness, depression, or anxiety. Additionally, being active and feeling strong helps one feel more self-confident, which plays a huge role in reducing the risk of falls.
Now that we’ve outlined the individual benefits of exercise for seniors, the question remains: How does one get started? First, it’s important to note that it’s never too late to start. However, it’s imperative to remember that any time a person starts a new exercise program it should be cleared by their physician. The World Health Organization recommends the following exercise guidelines for older adults:
Aerobic activity should be performed in intervals of at least 10 minutes at a time.
For additional health benefits, over time older adults should try to increase their moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity from 150 to 300 minutes per week, or increase their vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity from 75 to 150 minutes per week (or an equivalent combination of moderate-and vigorous-intensity activity).
Older adults with poor mobility should perform physical activity to enhance balance and prevent falls on three or more days per week.
Muscle-strengthening activities involving major muscle groups should be done on two or more days each week.
When older adults cannot do the recommended amounts of physical activity due to health conditions, they should be as physically active as their abilities and conditions allow.
Healthy activity in senior lifestyles is not restricted to Older Americans Month or National Senior Health and Fitness Day. Year-round exercise is encouraged, provided that elderly individuals remain cautious and aware of their bodies’ limits.
Increased mental activity, longer life, prevention of illness, mood improvement, and more await those who choose an active lifestyle. Benefits exist beyond those listed here for seniors that dedicate time and effort to regular exercise. Vigilance of precautions while giving a fitness program proper attention will allow individuals of advanced age to regain control of their bodies safely and practically, enhancing quality of life along the way.
Melissa Morante is an owner of ComForCare Home Care and serves as Chief Marketing Officer.
Melissa is an expert in Parkinson’s Disease, working to train the agency’s caregivers on recognizing both motor and non-motor symptoms and how to care for those living with the disease. She serves on the board of directors for the American Parkinson Disease Association (APDA) South Florida Chapter lending support to those who are living with the disease. Melissa facilitates four support groups for family caregivers and those for whom they care.
As a health and wellness aficionado, Melissa believes that a healthy lifestyle and a diet rich in whole foods and regular exercise are the best medicines. Melissa is a certified group fitness instructor with a specialty in senior fitness. She currently volunteers her time leading exercise classes in independent living facilities throughout the area.
ComForCare Home Care offers private-duty, non-medical home health care that allows people to age comfortably, safely and happily in place. The company has unique expertise in working with those living with Alzheimer’s Disease, dementia, Parkinson’s Disease and other chronic conditions. Services include grooming, hygiene, meal preparation, light housekeeping, transportation, medication reminder and more.
To learn more, visit www.palmbeach.comforcare.com.