Aging isn’t always easy.
Not only does your life change, so does your body. Your knees and hips become more creaky and stiff. You may struggle to do some of life’s simplest tasks, like brushing your teeth because your hands are so sore, and you may even start to forget a few things.
That’s where daily movement can help; and the research on aging and exercise shows it’s never too early - or, too late - to start1!
The goodness of exercise extends into your golden years
While many people believe that age can be limiting in terms of workout capability - this isn’t entirely true. Sure, you may have to adjust the exercises to suit your individual situation, but your age doesn’t have to dictate your ability to exercise, in general.
Take Polish centenarian and Masters athlete, Stanislaw Kowalski, for example. He is 108 years old and is still taking part and competing in sprinting, shot put and discus events2.
Kelly slater, a Florida native, is well known for being the older guy at surfing competitions. At 47, he isn’t exactly old, but those in his profession typically reach the peak of their performance in their 20s and early 30s. He just keeps going3.
Of course, these two men have been active and athletic most of their lives, and it’s what their bodies are used to. It doesn’t, however, mean that you should continue to do what your body is used to as you age, particularly if that means sitting around.
In a recent study, researchers found that the number one way to increase your longevity and add healthy years to your life is by taking part in frequent bouts of exercise. This conclusion rings true, even if you only start exercising in your senior years4.
There are so many benefits to exercise as you age that go far beyond looking good. Even if you’re not currently in great physical shape, becoming more physically active can help you to:
- Improve your overall health. From your blood pressure to your immune system, every area of your health benefits from more movement5.
- Boost your energy. Exercise has been shown to improve sleep quality, allowing you to fall asleep much quicker, and sleeping more deeply. This can help you to wake up feeling more energetic and refreshed6.
- Protect your heart. Any physical activity requires your heart muscle to mediate the blood flow through your body depending on the level of exertion. These changes required by the heart can improve the strength and ability of the heart muscle to adapt, which keeps your ticker working as it should7.
- Manage your weight. As you age, your metabolism tends to slow down and it becomes far easier to put on weight. Carrying extra weight around is taxing for the body, and exercise provides a means to both increase your metabolism and help you to manage a healthy weight8.
- Improve your memory. There’s evidence to suggest that exercise can help you to ward off diseases like dementia. Exercise promotes blood flow through your body and to your brain, which delivers oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood to this precious organ, helping to maintain its health and function9,10,11.
- Balance your mood. When you do exercise, your body makes endorphins, which improve your mood. In addition, exercise provides one of the most natural forms of stress relief, which reduces inflammation and improves your overall mental health12.
- Reduce your risk of falls and broken bones. Your bones become more vulnerable to breaks as you get older. Your balance, mobility and flexibility may also decrease, which heightens your risk of falls and broken bones, too. Exercise increases the flexibility, range of motion, strength and balance to reduce these risks13.
- Maintain your independence. If you’re not able to get around yourself because of an illness or chronic medical condition, it requires someone else to be there to assist you at all times. This can have a huge impact on your ability to maintain your independence. Exercise can improve your quality of life through all of the methods mentioned above, and improve your chances of maintaining your independence as you get older14.
If you’re staying active into old age, keep at it. If you are just starting out, take it slow and remember to speak to your doctor about your restrictions should you be living with a chronic disease or taking medication.
It’s always important to look for a form of exercise that not only suits your needs, but will keep you interested and going back for more. Even short, low intensity exercise is far better for your body and health than none at all, and the health benefits aren’t only felt when you take part in strenuous and sweat-inducing sessions.
Don’t let thoughts like “I’m too old”, or “I’m too weak” keep you from reaping these enormous benefits as you get older. There are so many different types of routines and exercises you can take part in that can be tailored to exactly what you need, and even adjusted according to your requirements on any given day. As long as you take that first step, it’s a step toward better health and overall well-being… Something you absolutely deserve in your golden years!
- Garatachea, N., et al. Exercise Attenuates the Major Hallmarks of Aging. Rejuvenation Research. 2015. 18(1).
- Bushak, L. Stanislaw Kowalski, 104-Year-Old Runner, Breaks Record For 100-Meter Dash In Europe. Medical News Daily. 2014.
- Jarratt, P. Kelly Slater. Encyclopaedia Britannica. 2019.
- Archer, T. Health benefits for ageing: positive affect and life satisfaction, exercise and coping, and telomere length. J Ment Health Aging. 2017. 1(1):13-17.
- Vina, J., et al. Exercise: the lifelong supplement for healthy ageing and slowing down the onset of frailty. The Journal of Physiology. 594(8).
- Taheri, M., & Irandoust, K. The Exercise-Induced Weight Loss Improves Self-Reported Quality of Sleep in Obese Elderly Women with Sleep Disorders. Sleep and Hypnosis. A Journal of Clinical Neuroscience and Psychopathology. 2017.
- Sallam, N., & Laher, I. Exercise Modulates Oxidative Stress and Inflammation in Aging and Cardiovascular Diseases. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity. 2016. 7239639:32.
- Gill, L., et al. Weight Management in Older Adults. Current Obesity Reports. 2015. 4(3):379-388.
- Duzel, E., et al. Can physical exercise in old age improve memory and hippocampal function? Brain. 2016. 139(3):662-673.
- Geda, Y., et al. Physical Exercise, Aging, and Mild Cognitive Impairment. Arch Neurol. 2010. 67(1):80-86.
- Barnes, J. Exercise, cognitive function, and aging. Advances in Physiology Education. 2015.
- Basso, J., & Suzuki, W. The Effects of Acute Exercise on Mood, Cognition, Neurophysiology, and Neurochemical Pathways: A Review. Brain Plasticity. 2017. 2(2):127-152.
- Allison, S., et al. High and odd impact exercise training improved physical function and fall risk factors in community-dwelling older men. J Musculoskelet Neuronal Interact. 2018. 18(1):100-107.
- Cartee, G., et al. Exercise Promotes Healthy Aging of Skeletal Muscle. Cell Metabolism. 2016. 23(6):2034-1047.