It’s important to move your body as you get older. Easier said than done, right? Joints ache, ligaments creak, and you may not feel like getting up out of your comfortable armchair.
However, exercise can help your emotional well-being, your physical strength, and even your cognitive health. The benefits of regular physical activity—swimming, riding a bike, even taking a short daily walk—are closely tied to healthy aging after age 65.
“Physically active older adults are less likely to experience falls, and if they do fall, they are
less likely to be seriously injured,” according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Additionally, exercise and a healthy lifestyle have been linked to a lower risk of dementia in cognitively healthy older adults, according to a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Not only can light exercise benefit your physical and mental health, it can help you maintain your independence longer.
“Most of us have heard the term, ‘if you don’t move it, you lose it,’” said Kyla Burnet, an occupational therapist for Solaris Healthcare. “The less you use your muscles, the more likely they are to go through muscle atrophy.”
So, if you haven’t been exercising, how do you start?
It starts with making time, according to the National Institute on Aging.
First, try to mix physical activity with something you already do from day to day, like walking with the family dog or doing chores. Second, combine exercise with things you enjoy, and try new things to keep from getting bored. Third, remember that you don’t need fancy gear to move your body. All you need is a pair of comfortable walking shoes, a swimsuit if you have access to a pool, or maybe a set of light weights.
“When most people think of exercise, they think of going to a gym,” Burnet said. “They think of people with massive muscle tone. All that’s really necessary for something to count as exercise is muscle contracture to occur.”
Burnet gave an example of a good home exercise: When you use your arms to get up and down from a chair, that contracts the muscles in your legs and arms. That could be considered exercise if you do 3 rounds of 10 repetitions. This exercise will help you get in and out of your car, out of a chair, and up off the toilet seat.
“We want you to enjoy your golden years,” Burnet said.
If you can stick with your exercise program for six months, you’re on your way to making a habit.
Solaris Healthcare is committed to improving the health and wellness of the elderly throughout the Southeast in its skilled nursing and assisted living communities. It provides a full set of rehabilitation services to help you or your loved ones get back on their feet and keep their independence as long as possible.
If you are looking for skilled elderly care, contact Solaris Healthcare, or call or visit a location near you. Visit solarishealthcare.org for details.