We all know about the importance of exercise, but did you know that it’s still just as important for aging adults to get a proper amount of exercise?
Statistics suggest that most older adults don’t get the amount of exercise they need, and 42% of people over the age of 65 experience functional limitations when attempting to perform common, everyday activities. Because lifestyles often become increasingly sedentary, simple acts like climbing stairs or even just getting out of a chair often requires near maximum exertion for people who are not physically active on a regular basis. As we age, it’s important to keep moving to maintain our physical abilities and stamina.
The Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines includes specific requirements for the proper amount of movement, indicating that “at least 150 minutes of moderate-level or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise spread over at least five days of the week” should be the standard to maintain. Moderate-intensity physical activities will cause older adults to sweat a little and breathe a bit harder and includes activities such as bicycling or brisk walking. Vigorous-intensity activities will cause older adults to sweat more and feel ‘out of breath,’ and includes activities such as cross-country skiing and swimming. If weight loss is the goal, the guidelines increase to up to 300 minutes (five hours) of vigorous-intensity activity. In addition, “muscle-strengthening activities that work all the major muscle groups – the legs, hips, back, core, chest, shoulder and arms” should be performed at least twice a week, along with stretching and flexibility (seven days a week) and balance exercises.
10 Benefits of Exercise for Baby Boomers
There are 10 ways older people can benefit from maintaining a proper level of exercise and improve their overall well-being.
- Weight Control: Exercise can help prevent excess weight gain or help maintain weight loss. Engaging in physical activity burns calories, and the more calories that are burned, the more fat is burned; the more intense the activity, the more calories are burned. Daily activity levels can be increased by taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or revving up your household chores.
- Combats Health Conditions & Diseases: Being active boosts high-density lipoprotein (HDL) – known as ‘good cholesterol’ – and decreases the presence of unhealthy triglycerides, which keeps your blood flowing smoothly, thus decreasing the risk of cardiovascular diseases. It also lowers high blood pressure levels, and helps prevent or manage other health concerns including depression, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, stroke, falls and certain types of cancers.
- Improves Mood: Exercise is a great way to blow off some steam after a stressful day and gives an emotional lift. Something as simple as a 30-minute walk can help boost your mood because physical activity stimulates various brain chemicals that create feelings of happiness and relaxation. Regular exercise can also boost confidence and improve self-esteem by improving how you feel about your appearance.
- Increases Energy: Muscle strength and endurance levels will increase with regular performance of physical activity. The cardiovascular system is trained to work more efficiently because exercise delivers oxygen and nutrients to the body’s tissues. When your heart and lungs work more efficiently, you’ll have more energy to go about your daily activities.
- Improves Sleep: People who exercise regularly are able to fall asleep faster and benefit from a deeper, more restful sleep. However, exercise that is performed too close to bedtime can have the opposite effect by creating too much energy to allow for the onset of sleep.
- Builds Muscle: Either you’re building muscle, or you’re losing muscle. Regular physical activity uses your muscles and this continued use keeps them strong. Specific exercises can be used to build muscles where there are any imbalances or specific weaknesses.
- Maintains Bone Strength: Bone density decreases with age, so it’s important to do resistance training to maintain and even increase bone density. Weights, bands or even just your own bodyweight will give enough resistance to accomplish this.
- Reduces Muscle & Joint Pain: Muscles that surround a joint and are weak are unable to move through the proper range of motion, which creates pain in the joints. If these muscles are strengthened, the pressure will be reduced, thus reducing the associated pain. Weak muscles put undue stress on other muscles that have to over-work, and this results in pain in the neck, back, hips or shoulders. If the core muscles are weak, the back muscles will need to work harder to keep you upright, and back pain will result from the overuse.
- Improves & Maintains Balance: Balance is something that can be improved over time, but muscle loss often causes balance loss as well, which creates the fear of falling (and actual falls, which cause injury). Strengthening all of the muscles, including the stabilizing muscles, will increase balance and remove any fear in performing activities that require balance, like simply going for a walk.
- Passes the Time: Exercising can be a fun way to spend some time. It can help you unwind, enjoy the outdoors, connect with other people and engage in activities that make you happy. Find a physical activity you enjoy, or move outside of your comfort zone and try something new.
Exercise for Baby Boomers
Looking for some ideas to incorporate exercise into your weekly routine? Try these:
- take the stairs instead of the escalator or elevator
- walk the dog more often
- walk to the store instead of driving
- park farther from the door
- clean the garage or wash your car
- increase the amount of housework or yard work you do, or increase the intensity
- join a dance group, hiking club or sports team
- walk or bicycle to a friend’s house
- play with grandchildren
- volunteer for active projects
- use a pull-cart and walk during your golf game instead of renting a cart
- take up an active hobby like gardening or dancing
Now that you know all of the benefits of exercising for our aging population and you have some ideas to implement, it’s time to get moving! What do you do or what will you start doing to get your required amount of physical activity every week? Let me know in the comments!
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