As we age, regular exercise routines are often thrown to the wayside. A recent study determined that about 67% of seniors are sedentary for at least 8.5 hours each day. It’s common for seniors to fear that physical activity may be too strenuous, concerned that it may do more harm than good. However, the consequences of an inactive lifestyle are vastly more alarming than the risks from physical exertion. Failing to stay active has negative implications on strength, balance, flexibility, and endurance. While important at all ages, these become increasingly important as one progresses into old age. Improving balance helps prevent falls, and flexibility promotes faster recovery from injury. As we age, the healing process gradually wanes, but exercise can help strengthen the body’s recovery mechanisms. Active adults are found to heal from wounds 25% faster than those who are inactive. Starting an exercise routine early, before an accident occurs, may help with a faster recovery.
Furthermore, exercising regularly has positive effects on the immune system, blood pressure, and cardiovascular system while decreasing the risk of heart disease. Exercise also lessens feelings of depression and anxiety by releasing mood-enhancing endorphins. In this way, exercise can biologically help harness negative thoughts and replace them with positive feelings of satisfaction and purpose.
Yoga and Tai Chi are both great options for seniors trying to get/stay active. They are both self-paced, gentle forms of physical exercise that involve performing a series of slow, graceful, and continuous movements. Yoga and Tai Chi can easily be introduced at a beginner level and can increase in difficulty as balance, strength, and flexibility improve.
In addition to the benefits exercise has for your body, an active lifestyle often translates to a stronger, more fulfilling social life. Group exercise classes encourage healthy social lives by facilitating social interactions and expanding social circles. Studies have found that group exercise classes may reduce depression symptoms by 30% for seniors. Exercise may improve all aspects of life, from physical strength, injury prevention, mood, to social interaction. Staying active into old age has proven successful for combating the negative thoughts, feelings, and concerns that are common with aging.
About the Author
Maggie Alves is a junior at the University of California, Santa Barbara’s Honors College, studying Communication and Political Science. She is a Marin native, graduating from Tamalpais High School in 2017. She worked as the Marketing and Communication Intern at the Redwoods during the 2019 summer assisting with various marketing and social media campaigns.