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The Benefits of Staying Active as You Age

Posted by Daniel J. Eccher, Esq. | Apr 15, 2024

Do you think older adults who start an exercise program won't gain strength or flexibility? Or that doing mentally stimulating activities later in life is pointless as the benefits could be fleeting? 

Imagine clearer thoughts after a brisk walk or the satisfaction of mastering a new Zumba move. Studies show these and other activities can boost mental and physical strength at any stage of life.

How Mental and Physical Activity Keep You Healthy

An active lifestyle can prevent and reduce illnesses. It also helps maintain independence and mobility. 

Mental and physical exercise help prevent:

  • Falls and fractures: Prevention exercises can improve seniors' balance, flexibility, and coordination.
  • Alzheimer’s and other dementia: Routine movement and mental stimulation may boost mood and brain function, including decision-making, and slow cognitive decline.
  • Poor circulation: Moving regularly boosts blood flow and reduces the risk of vascular diseases.
  • Obesity: Especially when it's paired with a healthy diet, exercise aids weight loss and builds muscle mass. Shedding pounds may also prevent diabetes and heart disease.
  • Heart disease: Staying fit can improve heart function, reducing your risk of succumbing to America's number one killer.

Regular activity also slows the progression of other chronic conditions like depression and osteoporosis.

Three Studies on the Effects of Regular Activity 

Data confirms how physical and mental exercise promote health and well-being at any age.

Even minimal movement may extend life and decrease disease rates. In a study of adults at an average age of 63, 15 to 20 minutes of moderate exercise over a week reduced their mortality rates 16 to 40 percent. Those who exercised 50-57 minutes weekly saw even longer lifespans and lower chronic disease risks. 

Another study of healthy adults age 65 to 85 showed that lifting weights three times weekly for three months increased muscle mass and strength. Even the oldest participants saw an 11 percent gain – slightly more than the youngest subjects. Their mobility also increased nearly 13 percent, including the ability to rise from a chair. 

The researchers attributed the oldest group's higher gains partly to their greater years of declining muscle size and strength. Also, supervised training helped prevent injuries. 

Despite the results, the researchers concluded it's better to start exercising when you're younger and healthy.

Especially if you have an existing condition, before you start an exercise routine, consult a health-care provider.

Regarding brain function, a Mayo Clinic study found that people age 70 and older who crafted, socialized, used computers, and played games lowered their risk of mild cognitive impairment. Computer use was most beneficial, followed by crafting, socializing, and game playing. Those who did these activities two to three times weekly saw a slower decline than people who participated at the same rate monthly. Those with genetic risk factors for mild cognitive decline also benefited from the activities.

Activity Boosting Tips and Resources 

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggests older adults aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise weekly with strength training twice weekly and balance training. They also recommend older people do a mix of activities at the same time.

One should pursue an exercise program tailored to your needs, preferences, and abilities. Start slowly and stay aware of your fitness levels and limits – avoid over-exertion or strain. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes, and drink water to keep hydrated. 

If you do something you enjoy, including everyday activities like washing windows, knitting, or folding laundry, you're more likely to stick with it.

Volunteering or joining clubs, a gym, or a community fitness program may also help older people socially as they connect with others.

Mental and physical fitness options for seniors:

How a Little Effort Goes a Long Way - Building a Healthier Future

No matter your age, even a small amount of time and activity can make a big difference. You might see fewer aches and pains, steadier strides throughout your day, or an easier recall of people's names. Regular exercise offers these and more benefits and affects your ability to keep doing the activities you love. 

For comprehensive legal solutions that address all aspects of aging, contact us online or call (207) 377-6966.

About the Author

Daniel J. Eccher, Esq.

Daniel J. Eccher, Esq. is the Managing Shareholder at Levey, Wagley, Putman & Eccher, P.A., in Winthrop, Maine. Dan's favorite problem to solve is helping clients figure out how to afford long-term care while having something left for their family.

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