March 14, 2021

10 Reasons Why Seniors Should Maintain an Active Lifestyle

Written by: Syed Naqvi, MBBS
Reviewed by: Mubashar Rehman, PHD

It has been proven time and again that exercise and an active lifestyle improve the hard outcomes (i.e. death, disability, lifestyle) of life. Exercise is surrounded by many myths especially in the senior population and doubts have been cast upon its significance considering the increased risk of falls and inability of the seniors to maintain the same activity as their younger selves. However, many studies have proven that the benefits of an active lifestyle far exceed the risks [1]

There are countless benefits of an active lifestyle in the senior population. We list here:

The 10 Most Common Reasons why you Should Consider an Active Lifestyle

 

1. Improves Health

Incredible benefits associated with regular exercise have been proven from various studies[2]. Think of your body as a complex machine with a lot of gears that need to be in motion. A sedentary lifestyle would keep these gears stationary, hence, leading to the development of rust. In order to keep your body working efficiently, it needs to keep working. Our bodies are incredible in the sense that they can adapt to the environment that is provided to them. In presence of some physical stress (e.g. exercise) our bodies adapt to it by various methods, including but not limited to increasing muscle mass, improving metabolism, strengthening immunity, and increasing energy. All these beneficial adaptations lead to improved health and prolonged life. A jog a day keeps the doctor away. Forget the apple (or maybe eat it while you are on that treadmill of yours)! 


2. Maintains Body Weight

As we age, our energy demands start to decrease. Naturally, our bodies adapt by slowing down the metabolism. During adolescence, so many things are happening to our bodies, for example, growth, development of sexual characteristics during puberty, and brain development. All of these changes require a huge amount of energy, not to mention the fact that energy is also required to maintain daily activities. As we age, our bodies stop undergoing these changes and understandably our bodies want less energy to get by. Unfortunately, the eating habits that we evolve into during our life do not tend to change. This leads to excess nutrition that is stored by the body in the form of fat. With regular exercise, the body’s energy requirement does not decrease and everything that is eaten is utilized in maintaining an active lifestyle. This is really helpful for people who want to maintain a steady body weight and avoid medical complications associated with obesity.


3. Improves Psychological Health

Do you know that “good feeling” you get after you go for a run or hit the gym? Well, that is your body releasing endorphins and serotonin throughout your body. Endorphins are small hormones in your bodies that are known to help you deal with pain and stress. Whether it is a heartbreak or a paper cut, you know that regularly pumping in endorphins in your bloodstream will help you cope with those stresses. Serotonin, on the other hand, is the body’s happy pill. It is a small messenger that goes into your brain to cheer it up. Exercise is associated with improved mood, decreased anxiety, stress relief, and increased mental alertness [3].


4. Increases Bone Strength

Like we previously mentioned, our bodies adapt. Once you start exercising, your bones undergo regular stress, and your body adapts by increasing bone strength to prevent any stress fracture. Many among our senior population believe that exercise will lead to fractures since they have weak bones. Studies have proven that it is no more than a myth. You just have to start with small exertions and progressively increase your activity to give enough time to your body to adapt. Starting a rigorous exercise immediately may lead to stress fractures since the body has not had any time to strengthen the bones.


5. Increases Lifespan

Exercise has been linked to decreased all-cause and cardiovascular mortality in the senior population. On the other hand, regularly watching television is associated with an increased risk of mortality. One study has shown that people who watch television for more than 4 hours a day have an 80% more chance of dying of cardiovascular diseases. On the other hand, running for even 5-10 minutes every day has shown to decrease an individual’s risk of dying from cardiovascular diseases by 50%[4]. Active seniors tend to have a longer lifespan than seniors who have a sedentary lifestyle.


6. Reduces Hypertension

Seniors are more prone to hypertension because blood vessels become inelastic as the person ages. Exercise has been proven by many studies to reduce hypertension and decrease complications associated with hypertension, such as heart attacks, strokes, and bleeds inside the brain.


7. Increases Energy

Regular exercise demands more energy from the body. Naturally, the body adapts by increasing the efficiency of metabolism. This improves the stamina and energy in patients. Increased energy means that active senior citizens would not be home-bound and would be able to carry out their everyday tasks with increasing ease.


8. Decreases Risk of Falls

Falls are one of the common causes of death and disability among the senior populations. Exercise is associated with a myth that it might lead to increased falls in the elderly since this population is already at an increased risk of problems with balance. However, studies have shown that people who regularly exercise have improved balance and low risk of falls[5]


9. Decreases Risk of Dementia

Dementia is the progressive deterioration of the brain. The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease that presents more commonly in the elderly population. Dementia is characterized by memory loss and progressive inability to carry out daily tasks. Dementia eventually leads to an early demise. Exercise is one of the proven preventive measures that can help people avoid dementia.


10. Improves Healing

As we age, it takes longer to heal wounds. Moreover, the elderly may also have comorbid conditions, for example, diabetes mellitus, that can increase healing time. Exercise helps with healing[6]. Patients who exercise heal up to 25% faster than those who do not exercise regularly.


Summary

Although seniors may find it hard to adopt an active lifestyle than those who are still in the prime of their lives, yet studies have shown time and again that adopting an active lifestyle at any age is associated with an improved and healthy lifestyle. Even wheelchair-bound seniors are recommended several chair exercises to allow them to reap the benefits of exercise. Several fun balance exercises for the elderly include chair tai chi, chair yoga, and chair aerobics.

 

  

Reference

  1. Warburton DE, Nicol CW, Bredin SS. Health benefits of physical activity: the evidence. CMAJ. 2006;174(6):801-809. doi:10.1503/cmaj.051351
  2. Galli F, Chirico A, Mallia L, et al. Active lifestyles in older adults: an integrated predictive model of physical activity and exercise. Oncotarget. 2018;9(39):25402-25413. Published 2018 May 22. doi:10.18632/oncotarget.25352
  3. Sharma A, Madaan V, Petty FD. Exercise for mental health. Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry. 2006;8(2):106. doi:10.4088/pcc.v08n0208a
  4. Dunstan D, Barr E, Healy G, Salmon J, Shaw J, Balkau B et al. Television Viewing Time and Mortality. Circulation. 2010;121(3):384-391.
  5. Sherrington C, Fairhall NJ, Wallbank GK, et al. Exercise for preventing falls in older people living in the community. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2019;1(1):CD012424. Published 2019 Jan 31. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD012424.pub2
  6. Emery CF, Kiecolt-Glaser JK, Glaser R, Malarkey WB, Frid DJ. Exercise accelerates wound healing among healthy older adults: a preliminary investigation. J GerontolABiol Sci Med Sci. 2005;60(11):1432-1436. doi:10.1093/gerona/60.11.1432
Article written by Syed Naqvi, MBBS
Dr Syed Naqvi is a graduate of King Edward Medical University which is one of the top medical schools in his country. He has a 10-year editorial experience working on different projects. He has spent countless hours in pursuing his lifelong dream as a doctor. Ever since clearing his United States Medical Licensing Exams, he has been pursuing different aspects of medical education to broaden his scope. His interests lie in medical education, philosophy, and writing. He likes to write books for personal use and recently finished a 3000-page medical book. He likes to spend his free time reading philosophy, psychology, and medical books.

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