It’s accepted that people slow down and become weaker and more sedentary as they get older. Many people believe that weight gain, aching joints and the “calming down” that people do as they age means that exercise is no longer for them, but this is wrong.
In fact, as people get older, exercise becomes more central to maintaining a healthy body and mind. You may not be the lithe 20-something you once were, but your body still needs care and conditioning, even if it has a bit more padding than it used to!
How does exercise benefit older people?
Quite simply, it helps them to live longer! Exercise is the primary contributor to a long, healthy life. It doesn’t matter if you weren’t sporty in your younger years, either, as starting a sport or an exercise regime in later life still offers huge benefits to your physical, emotional and social life.
The physical benefits
Regular exercise helps you to maintain a healthy weight. Your metabolism doesn’t slow as you age – you lose muscle mass. As muscle is energy-expensive to maintain, the more you have, the more calories you burn.
It’s also great for reducing the symptoms of chronic ailments – regular exercisers have lower blood pressure, higher bone density, a better immune and digestive system and are less prone to heart disease and even some types of cancer.
Working the body regularly also helps to maintain balance, strength, flexibility and co-ordination, all of which helps to prevent falls.
The psychological benefits
Exercise helps you to sleep, which is vital for overall health; it also raises your mood and self-confidence. You’ll get a boost of endorphins as you work out, which makes you feel happier and less stressed or anxious.
Many older people think that doing a crossword is enough to keep their mental faculties sharp. While this will certainly help, it’s actually physical exercise that offers the most benefits, including increased creativity, memory and multitasking abilities. Remaining physically active also helps to ward off progressive brain diseases like dementia.
Misconceptions about exercise and age
There’s no point, I’ll still age!
Well, yes, you’ll get older; but regular exercise can turn back quite a few physical clocks and slow down the progression of some ailments, as well as help to prevent others. Plus, the effect on mood is the same no matter what your age is.
I could fall
Regular exercise not only improves your balance and co-ordination, but it helps to increase bone density – a win-win scenario.
I’m not the athlete I was
OK, this is true. However, do you want to be 20% of the athlete you were, or 70%? You can still feel a sense of prowess and achievement, even if your goals aren’t quite the same as they were in your younger days. It’s use it or lose it!
I never was an athlete!
It’s never too late to start. No-one’s asking you to do a pole vault here! Whatever your regime is, you’ll feel the benefits pretty quickly. In fact, people who were sporty in their younger years often have lingering injuries and dodgy joints, so you won’t have that to contend with. Start off gently and see how you go.
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