June 11, 2015

The Relationship Between Activity, Exercise and Aging

Senior Health & Wellness

The health benefits of regular activity are numerous. They range from lower blood pressure to decreased rates of diabetes. Some older adults, however, fear physical activity will increase their risk for experiencing a debilitating fall. It isn’t uncommon for a senior to give up a more active lifestyle because they think it will keep them safer. In fact, the opposite is true. Researchers from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) say “taking it easy” is what really puts older adults at risk. Exercise and aging are complimentary.

Understanding the Difference Between Activity and Exercise

A question that sometimes comes up when talking about maintaining an active lifestyle is the difference between exercise and activity. Exercise is more formal, structured types of physical activity. Common ones for seniors to safely engage in are stationary biking, swimming, chair yoga and pilates.

Activities are the more natural ways you engage with life. It might be gardening, housework, laundry or taking the dog for a daily walk around the block. Both exercise and activity are important for maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

What to Know About Activity in Later Life

If you or a Seattle senior you love are trying to learn more about activity, exercise and aging, here are a few things you should know:

  1. Inactivity is Dangerous: Falling in to a sedentary lifestyle can increase the risk for injury, illness and disease. People who are inactive have higher rates of hospitalization, make more visits to the doctor and take greater numbers of prescription medicines.
  2. Exercise and Fall Prevention: While it often seems counterintuitive, seniors who engage in a regular exercise program — which includes strength training — experience fewer falls. This is because routine exercise helps with balance, strength and flexibility. Each of these is a necessary part of fall prevention.
  3. Improved Mental Health: Exercise helps to boost mood at any age. For older adults, however, it is especially important. Loneliness, isolation and depression all contribute to serious health problems. Some research has also linked exercise and physical activity to improved cognitive function.
  4. Healthier Bones: A study completed at Freidrich-Alexander University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Erlangen, Germany showed that women who engage in routine exercise have denser, healthier bones.
  5. Better Quality of Sleep: Older adults who lead more active lives sleep better. 150 minutes of moderate activity and exercise each week can improve your quality of sleep by as much as 65%. For seniors who may be prone to insomnia and other sleep disorders, this is good news.

Hopefully this information will help you feel inspired to be active!

Additionally, a new guide that offers a unique way to be physically active was recently published. Thank you Basia Belza at @UWSoN, @CDCgov, and others for creating this valuable Guide! Era Living is proud to be on the Advisory Group. The Guide can be downloaded here.