Growing Old vs. Aging Well: The Benefits of Staying Active
By: Courtney Smith, Director at BAYADA Home Care
Some things in life are just good for you for a multitude of reasons. Sleep, nutritious food, hydration, mental stimulation, a sense of purpose, companionship, laughter, and yes, exercise. Simple leisure activities like walking and gardening can make a big difference for seniors’ mental and physical health, energy and endurance, and life expectancy.
Regular, moderate exercise has been scientifically linked to lower blood pressure and a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and some kinds of cancer. It can keep you mobile and reduce the risk of falls and injuries by improving your strength, flexibility, bone density, and balance. And regular exercise is excellent for reducing symptoms of depression and stress and improving your ability to sleep, think, learn, and make decisions.
Here are some healthy aging tips to help you keep moving!
- Evaluate your health status
It is important to consider your physical limitations to find a safe way to get exercise. Speak with your doctor and ask for a recommended exercise regimen. Ask if there are any special precautions you should take to keep safe and if there are any activities you should avoid based on your current health and fitness level to keep you safe!
- Take safety precautions
Wear supportive, comfortable shoes and loose clothing. Warm up with gentle stretches, and drink water before, during, and after exercise, even if you do not feel thirsty. Pay attention to your surroundings, including uneven surfaces, weather, traffic hazards, and strangers.
- Start small
Protect yourself from injury by starting small and gradually increasing your activity level. When you are starting out, walking is an easy activity to get moving. Even 10 minutes a day, twice a day, will do your body a world of good. Be mindful of your limits; stop if you have pain, dizziness, cramps, or shortness of breath and check in with your doctor before resuming activities.
- Choose activities that are fun for you
- The more you enjoy what you are doing, the more likely you are to stick to it and get better results. Exercise can happen through working out in a gym, playing tennis, swimming, biking, dancing, and more. Yoga is another great option as it can help you gain strength, balance, and flexibility before starting more vigorous exercise.
- Seek professional advice
A physical therapist, occupational therapist, personal trainer, or class instructor can help design an exercise routine just for you and your personal fitness and wellness goals. A professional can also teach you how to perform exercises safely to prevent falls and injuries.
- Recruit a workout buddy
Exercising with a companion is always more fun and motivating. Plus, it helps you stay accountable, share information, and look out for each other. Joining a gym or taking a workout class can help you make a workout buddy or two.
- Focus on short-term goals
Sometimes the thought of reaching an end goal can be overwhelming. Instead, set short-term goals and focus on other benefits like increased flexibility, improved balance, and enhanced mood. Pay attention to all the small ways you feel better and stronger every day—they will surprise and motivate you!
- Alternate “easy day” and “hard day” workouts
Once you are in an active groove, you will get greater benefits by alternating more intense workouts with easier ones. For example, if you walk one day for 40 minutes, only walk 20 minutes the next day. It will give your body a chance to recover but still remain active.
- Mix it up
As much as you may enjoy walking, your routine can get, well, routine. Adding a variety of different activities is a great way to stay motivated. So, instead of your morning walk, how about taking a swim or a doing a yoga class?
- Be active all day long
- Even when you are not working out, you can still stay active, and every movement counts. Play with your grandchildren. Take the stairs rather than the elevator, or park at the far end of a parking lot. Committing yourself to a schedule of home chores like gardening, vacuuming, or checking the mailbox is a great opportunity to keep your body moving on a regular basis.