Senior health and fitness takes center stage on National Senior Health & Fitness Day, celebrated on May 25th every year. Dedicated to the betterment of senior health, the event is a perfect time to not only show respect and appreciation for older adults, but also to highlight simple ways for anyone over the age to 60—including those who require assistance with daily activities—to improve their overall health and fitness.
Why is enhancing senior health and fitness so important?
Simply put, staying as healthy as possible for as long as possible has a profound impact on how long a person can retain some sense of independence and extend their longevity. Everything from the strength of our bones. To our sense of balance. Mental health and clarity. Whether our joints ache. Susceptibility to disease. All this and more has a major impact on senior health and fitness.
It’s good to know that there are ways for your loved one to achieve these benefits as well, even if they have mobility issues or have a chronic condition that makes it impossible for them to live on their own. Stretching, moving about in a chair, exercising in water, using hand weights while seated and more—all are possible options for physical workouts—and all are ways for any older adult to help protect their health.
Take the heart, for instance. Heart disease is the number one health problem in America. Every 43 seconds, someone has a heart attack in the U.S. For the past two decades, heart disease and cancer have been the leading causes of death for people 65 and above in the U.S. And exercise is an effective weapon against these diseases.
How often should an older adult exercise?
The good news about exercise is that it can be done just about anywhere, doing almost anything. For example, walking the dog. Parking further away from the store. Taking the stairs. Stretching every morning. According to familydoctor.org, seniors age 65 and older should get a least 2.5 hours of moderate aerobic exercise every week. That’s about 30 minutes a day, several days a week. Strength training twice a week is also a good idea as well as working on balance daily.
And don’t forget your loved one’s health.
Exercise is just one important component of senior health and fitness. Overall wellness also includes how your loved one connects and engages with others, their outlook on life and aging, and how they treat their body.
Here are 7 easy ways to improve senior health and fitness:
1. Eating a healthy diet. Think about which foods pack the most nutrients, such as vegetables, fruits, beans and lentils, nuts, whole grains, and lean protein. They also offer a great dose of antioxidants, which help the body’s cells stay healthy and enhance overall health. Choosing heart-healthy foods also helps protect against diabetes, as does avoiding high-fat foods and sugary snacks. If your loved one is taking medications, it’s important for them to stay hydrated as well.
2. Seeing a doctor regularly for a checkup. You might be so preoccupied with helping your parent or spouse stay as healthy as possible that you’ve let your own wellness exam slip by. Make it an annual event. Even if you’re feeling great, remember that some conditions can develop without you even realizing it, like diabetes or high blood pressure. Seeing a physician at least once a year helps you stay in check. And don’t forget to keep your flu and pneumonia shots up-to-date as well.
3. Socializing often. This is where a vibrant environment such as assisted living can be a boon to enhanced health and quality of life. Residents can regularly get together with people they enjoy, share experiences, engage in conversation, and feel a part of a community—all of which can have a major impact on a person’s health as they age. Consider that the CDC reports that social isolation significantly increases a person’s risk of premature death from all causes. It can increase the risk of dementia, heart disease, depression and more.
That’s why socializing is key to senior health and fitness. Spending time with others can reduce stress, give a person a sense of belonging, boosting the immune system, and offering protection from chronic illnesses. And it doesn’t require a large number of friends. Research is showing that it’s the quality of relationships that matter. If your loved one is an introvert, encourage them to check in with a few good friends occasionally, whether in person, by phone, or online. Connecting is key to senior health and fitness.
4. Walking. If you and/or your loved one are able, grab your athletic shoes, a bottle of water, and start walking regularly. This simple exercise can help strengthen your bones and help prevent osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. Walking can lower blood sugar. Walking gets your heart rate up and helps reduce blood pressure and high cholesterol. Walking can release endorphins and put you in a good mood. It can help you maintain a healthy weight. And walking doesn’t require a special outfit or setting. You can walk around a house, a neighborhood, a building, on a track, in the park, on the beach and so on.
5. Exercising regularly. How does senior health and fitness benefit from regular exercise? It boosts immunity. Helps your heart. Lifts your mood and sense of well-being. Helps prevent Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Reduces blood pressure. Keeps your joints from becoming stiff and can help reduce pain. And regular exercise can improve your balance, key to fall prevention. Research shows that regular exercise reduces the likelihood of falling by 23%. Tai chi is also good for balance and, as an added bonus, helps reduce stress.
Remember, regular exercise is available to everyone, even those who may be limited to a chair or who cannot engage in a rigorous activity. Chair aerobics, side bends, stretches, aqua therapy and other programs are designed to help a person overcome their mobility issues and benefit from the physical, mental and emotional benefits of exercise.
6. Building muscles. Growing older doesn't have to mean giving up strength. There are ways for just about any older adult to work on preventing muscle loss. Adults start losing muscle mass around the age of 40. Then after age 50, we can lose as much as 10% a year.
But by adding strength training to a fitness routine, twice a week, an older adult can prevent, or at least slow, this loss. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, strength training helps reduce the symptoms of many chronic diseases and conditions that commonly afflict older adults, including arthritis, diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, obesity and back pain. Residents in assisted living have the advantage of working with specially trained team members who can help them improve their strength safely and efficiently. If you are working with a loved one at home, you can keep it as simple as lifting soup cans and small free weights while seated.
7. Joining a class. Exercise classes can be lots of fun, both for you, and for the older adult in your life. You’re surrounded by others who share your goals and help you stay motivated. You’re moving your body, working your heart and lungs, and exercising your brain. Alzheimer’s Research & Prevention Foundation reports that exercise has been shown to reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia by nearly 50%. It’s never too late to get started!
Our robust lifestyle program is geared to enhancing each person’s health and fitness. At Clearwater Living®, we are reimagining senior living to create an innovative approach to aging in comfort. We call it Empowered Living. Contact us to learn more.