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Is it Safe for Seniors to Exercise?

Some seniors and older adults are hindered by the misconception that exercise will harm their ‘old’ and ‘frail’ bodies.  Although as seniors, our fitness regimes may differ from those of teenagers, exercise is still important and offers many health benefits to us as we age.  In and of itself, avoiding exercise because ‘we’re too old’ is not a viable reason to be inactive.

Exercise, Health Conditions and Chronic Diseases

Do you, or does your senior loved one suffer from a chronic disease such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease (i.e. high blood pressure), or arthritis?  Although such chronic conditions cannot be cured, there are treatments capable of controlling their symptoms to help you live a more comfortable lifestyle.
For example, older adults suffering from arthritis should do all they can to avoid a sedentary lifestyle since this only further decreases joint mobility.  Appropriate exercise:
  • Keeps your joints mobile
  • Helps to support your joints by strengthening the muscles around them
  • Transports waste materials to and from your cartilage through regular joint movement
Numerous clinical studies have proven that aerobic exercise in most cases is a suitable treatment and even a preventative measure for hypertension, or high blood pressure.  For diabetes patients, exercise can help maintain a healthy body weight, lower blood sugar levels, and decrease the risk of heart disease.

Exercise Recommendations for Seniors

Before you begin any fitness program, consult with your family physician.  Especially if you’re not sure which activities are suitable and which may pose a threat to your health, obtain the advice of an expert.  Depending on your age, physique, family history and any current health conditions you may be facing, a doctor or seniors’ fitness expert may be able to recommend specific exercises.

Moderate, Regular Exercise for Seniors

Moderate and regular physical activity is good for people of all ages and abilities.  Seniors’ exercise can elevate your mood, protect you from chronic disease, and lower your chance of injury.  Even if you or your elderly loved one currently suffers from an illness such as dementia, heart disease or colon cancer, safe exercise is still possible and can even improve such illnesses.

The Benefits

Participating in moderate exercise on a regular basis provides a wide range of health benefits to you and your aging loved ones:
Improved Immune System Function
Physical exercise makes the body stronger and healthier, which in turn, makes it better equipped to fight off germs and illnesses.  Immune system function is faster and more efficient.
Better Bone Density
Seniors and older adults who exercise protect themselves from decreased bone density as they age.  Both men and women – especially post-menopausal women – can lose bone density quickly.  Those who exercise, particularly those who do strength training, can dramatically reduce their bone mass loss, and help restore their bones to good health.  This improves balance, reduces the risk of osteoporosis, and lowers the chance of falling which may cause broken or fractured bones.
Cardiovascular and Cardio-respiratory Health
Exercise lowers the risk of heart disease and hypertension.  If you or your senior loved one already has high blood pressure, regular physical activity can lower it.
Gastrointestinal Health
Exercise promotes healthy digestion within the body.  It promotes the flow of bodily fluids, and encourages proper waste elimination for efficient digestion.
Prevention of Chronic Disease and Cancer
Studies have shown that regular physical exercise can actually act as a preventative measure against such diseases as Alzheimer’s and dementia, obesity, osteoporosis, heart disease, diabetes, and colon cancer.
Mood Elevation
Physical exercise has been shown to decrease age-related cynicism.  Seniors who exercise are more energetic, positive-minded and happy.  

Getting Started

An ideal moderate physical activity routine for older adults includes: 
  • Aerobic exercise
  • Strengthening 
  • Balance and flexibility training
If you're not sure where to start, hire a seniors' personal trainer or older adult fitness specialist.  To increase your motivation, consider joining a seniors' health club which specifically caters to older adults.
If you're looking for something a little different, try Yoga, Pilates or Tai Chi - all have proved to be highly effective forms of exercise for seniors and older adults.
When your body receives the training it needs, you put yourself in a position to enjoy a strong, safe and healthy lifestyle.
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