Lisa Conway – FLORIDA TODAY
Q: My mom needs to exercise, but I can’t convince her. Can you explain the benefits of staying active as we age?
A: As we age, we tend to slow down and become less active. This decrease in activity may be due to health problems, increased weight, pain or discomfort –or even a fear of falling. But an active lifestyle is essential to both our physical and emotional well being as we age. Staying active can boost your energy, protect your heart health, manage symptoms of pain or illness and allow you to maintain your independence. In addition, regular exercise and activity can help elevate your mood, keep your mind sharp and even help with memory!
Here are some benefits for both body and mind:
Reduce the impact of illness and chronic disease. People who exercise tend to have decreased problems with immunity and digestive functioning. They often have better blood pressure and bone density numbers in addition to a lower risk of Alzheimer’s, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, osteoporosis and even come cancers.
Enhance mobility, flexibility and balance. The evidence is in: studies conclude that exercise improves strength, flexibility and posture! These attributes are key for balance and coordination and can reduce the risk of falls. Stretching and strength training may also help alleviate discomfort from arthritis and other chronic conditions.
Maintain or lose weight. With age, our metabolism slows and maintaining a healthy weight can become a challenge. Regular activity will increase your muscle mass and nudge your metabolism, which will help you achieve a healthy body weight.
Improve brain function. Increased physical activity can help prevent memory loss, cognitive decline and dementia. It can also aid in other brain functions such as creativity and multi-tasking.
Improve sleep. Regular activity can help you fall asleep faster, sleep more deeply and wake feeling more energized and refreshed. Quality sleep is vital to both physical and mental health.
Boost your mood and self-confidence. Exercise can help relieve stress! Released during activity, endorphins are “feel good” brain chemicals that decrease feelings of depression and anxiety. Plus, who doesn’t feel better after fitting into favorite clothes again?
Staying active and exercising are crucial to aging well and maintaining independence. If your mom isn’t confident in her abilities to exercise safely, her insurance company may have a wellness program that pairs her with a therapist or trainer. Her doctor might also write an order for a physical therapy evaluation, to identify safe and beneficial activities. Don’t forget fun! Exercise that we enjoy will keep us moving — and coming back for more.
One Senior Place is a marketplace for resources and provider of information, advice, care and on-site services for seniors and their families. Questions for this column are answered by professionals in nursing, social work, care management and in-home care. Send questions to askOSP@OneSeniorPlace.com, call 321-751-6771 or visit One Senior Place, The Experts in Aging.
Lisa Conway is a Registered Nurse and a Certified Care Manager for Senior Partner Care Services, Viera.