Physical activity (other than just hitting the remote button) has many benefits for senior citizens. These benefits can provide great improvement for the quality of life for seniors. Since “senior citizens” are defined as those 60 and older, I can’t believe I’m writing about myself as well! Physical activity for us seniors provides many benefits for the mind, the body and the spirit. This is an issue my wife has been speaking to me about with ever increasing frequency.
The effects of aging can affect the mind and this is a concern for seniors and for the ones who care about them. Regular physical activity can reduce or slow down these effects. Exercise can slow the progress of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Blood flow to the brain is increased which stimulates the brain and helps to improve function. Many seniors suffer from insomnia brought on by many factors. Another benefit of physical activity is improved sleep and that’s an aspect of my life I would like to experience improvement in! Physical activity helps to exhaust the body and allow the senior to get better rest. When the body gets enough rest, the cognitive function of the senior citizen is improved. That’s GREAT news to me as my “senior moments” are becoming more frequent. Good rest allows seniors to be at their best (which is probably why my wife is urging me to get out and walk more). Chemicals produced and released during physical activity also improve mood and confidence in seniors, improving mind function which leads to benefits for the spirit as well. Depression commonly affects seniors as well. Exercise is known to improve symptoms of depression in senior citizens. With exercise comes better mobility and better mobility allows seniors to maintain independence. Independence gives more opportunity to exercise the body and the mind.
One of the greatest harms I saw to my grandmother and now hear from many of my more elderly clients is about falling and breaking their hip. Therefore, I strongly urge us all to get out and walk and eat more healthy (to my dismay, sugar is NOT one of the basic food groups)! The body can be greatly affected by aging and most people (including myself) want to find a way to slow or diminish those effects. A sedentary lifestyle (i.e., couch potato) can not only increase the effects of many chronic illnesses, but can cause the onset of other illnesses. Physical activity helps to fight obesity and heart disease. Problems with circulation are common in seniors. A sedentary lifestyle can escalate risks associated with poor circulation, but by getting up and moving seniors can improve circulation and reduce these risks. People with diabetes who become physically active have been able, along with a good diet, to improve their quality of life and reduce symptoms. Osteoporosis is of great concern to many seniors, especially woman, who tend to lose bone density as aging occurs. Exercise can slow the progress of osteoporosis. Mobility becomes a major issue for many senior citizens, but with regular physical activity seniors can improve flexibility, balance, and coordination. This improves stability which can reduce risks of falling and injury.
As the mind and body, struggle through the process of aging, the spirit of the person is also affected. Many seniors struggle with loneliness and depression, especially after the loss of a spouse or adult child. The effects of aging on their body and mind often are a drain on the spirit. Physical activity is an excellent way to build a strong social network. Joining a group such as Silver Sneakers, a group at the local YWCA or a local church, or a group at the Janet Goeske Senior Center gives an opportunity for making friends. More and more local Riverside churches have groups for walking up Mt. Rubidoux. Social connections lift the spirit and provide an opportunity to build meaningful relationships with people who are coming together for a common goal. Taking time to be physically active also gives seniors an opportunity to get out and about and soak up the sunshine. This provides valuable vitamin D, fresh air, and just gives a chance to “stop and smell the roses”. Not to mention the fact that when the mind and body are healthy, the spirit will be as well.
There are many excuses that seniors can use for not being physically active, but the bottom line is there is no substitute for exercises (in addition to frequent use of one’s arm to raise a cup of coffee to one’s mouth). The benefits speak for themselves. Take steps to increase your physical activity and improve your quality of life, mind, body, and spirit.
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