The temperature is climbing, the birds are chirping and the days are getting longer — spring is the perfect time to get out and about!
We can all likely recall the joy we felt playing outside as children in the warmer months: Riding bikes, running, hiking and countless other activities got our adrenaline pumping as we enjoyed the great outdoors. That thrill — and the health benefits that go with it — shouldn’t wane just because we age; in fact, we should embrace physical activity especially as we get older!
Do Seniors Benefit from Physical Exercise?
The medical advantages of physical activity abound. Regular exercise builds muscle mass that can be useful for mobility, promotes heart health and can help people lower their risk for chronic conditions.As we age, our health risks may increase, so staying physically active is particularly important.
According to the World Health Organization, older adults who engage in regular physical activity reduce their risk for coronary disease, high blood pressure, cancer, diabetes and many other illnesses. Plus, they perform better cognitively, are less at risk of falling and exhibit more independence. The National Institutes for Health even found that seniors who “take it easy” too much are more at risk for hospital and doctor visits and increased medication regimens than those who are active.
All good reasons to get moving!
How Can I Help My Loved One Get Active?
Exercise is sometimes easier said than done — we all know that feeling of being pulled to the couch over the gym! Older adults may face even more of an uphill battle, as natural aging obstacles like aches and pains can be a deterrent to exercise. But, physical activity doesn’t necessarily have to be on the traditional treadmill. There are many opportunities to build exercise into our everyday lives, even as we age.
Reframe Household Tasks
Vacuuming, dusting and even folding clothes — chores we have to do anyway — are great ways to keep moving. Older adults can also alter their routines to incorporate more activity. For instance, if the grocery store is close enough, why not try walking there instead of hopping in the car? There are chores and errands like this that we’re all tasked with, but reframing them as opportunities for exercise can both help us get active and encourage us to look at our daily routines with more positivity.
Get Social, Get Active
Like most things, exercising is always more fun with a buddy. From walking clubs to water-aerobics classes, there are boundless opportunities to get moving in group settings.
If organized activities aren’t what you or the senior in your life are looking for, consider less-structured partner activities like walking a set distance every evening with a spouse, neighbor or friend. In addition to keeping your heart rate up, you can also get in some quality time with a loved one.
Keep track of your physical activity to make sure you’re on target. Family or work obligations, doctor’s appointments and even weather can sidetrack us from getting out and getting active, so monitor your progress in a daily journal. Make it a habit to write down your activity goals each day or at the start of each week; if you’ve met them, build in a reward to congratulate yourself on your hard work and, if you haven’t, seeing your goals on paper is a good way to stay motivated to try harder the next day.
As always, make sure you or your loved one checks in with a health-care provider before taking on any new physical activities. Once you’re cleared, get out and spring into healthy aging!
Beverly Bernstein Joie, MS, CMC
Complete Care Strategies