The Benefits of Exercise

Why exercising is important - especially for seniors

The inability to climb stairs or walk longer distances is often associated with aging.

In most cases, however, these struggles are largely due to a lack of physical activity. A sedentary or inactive lifestyle can have major effects on the health and well-being of older adults as it increases the risk of developing severe diseases such as cardiovascular disease.

Besides a well balanced, nutrient-rich diet, being physically active on a regular basis is one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself.  In fact, seniors in particular can benefit a lot from introducing regular physical activity into their life. As we age, several physiological problems can develop, such as decrease in muscle force or bone density. Regular physical activity can help prevent or delay these problems.

It's never too late to start exercising and enjoying its many benefits! The key is to choose something that is right for you that you enjoy doing. It can be anything from yoga, weight training, tai chi, aquatic class to walking the dog, gardening or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Always consult with your doctor before beginning a new exercise program.

Benefits to your Bones

Osteoporosis - a condition that causes bones to become weak and porous - happens when calcium absorption into the bones is compromised and/or the living bone building cells can’t break down old bone to replace it with new. Sometimes even bumping into furniture or a simple sneeze is enough to fracture a bone.

You may not know you have Osteoporosis, as it is silent and painless - unless you break a bone - but certain factors may put you at risk such as Menopause/Hormone level drop, sedentary lifestyle, malabsorption of nutrients like in Celiac or Crohn’s disease, long term corticosteroid treatment like certain medicines to treat Arthritis (Prednisone) or low Vitamin D levels (always check with your doctor first before taking any supplements!).

Exercising is one way to fight bone loss as you build up the muscles, improve your endurance and increase the bone mass density, which means the bones become thicker and stronger and ultimately less prone to breaks.

Benefits to your Brain

Our brain loves exercise! It loves it when it gets an increase in oxygen-rich blood and a rush of soothing brain chemicals such as serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine.  This is beneficial particularly for those who suffer from depression.

Studies have shown that even briefly exercising for 20 minutes can improve information processing and memory functions of our brain. Exercise gives our brain a workout as it strengthens our nerve pathways that transmit impulses back and forth. This all helps to fend off memory loss and maintains cognitive skills such as word retrieval and short term memory retention.

Benefits to your Muscles

By building up our muscles and stretching the tendons and ligaments, we can improve our balance and weight bearing ability. We can feel more confident in the way we move, and with confidence comes a decrease in the fear of falling.

Our biggest muscles in the body are the thigh muscles. They hold most of our weight and we rely on them a great deal when doing things like sitting, rising from a chair and climbing stairs.

Building up our back muscles helps to hold up our spine and keep it from compressing on all the little nerves that run through our spinal column. This can be beneficial for those with back pain and arthritis.

Benefits to your Blood Sugar

Studies have shown that regular cardio exercise can be beneficial to people with Diabetes.

There are two types of Diabetes, Type 1 and Type 2.  Both mean that there is too much sugar remaining in the blood and the body is unable to use it properly. However they are different, the first being more severe than the second.

Type 1 is the complete lack of insulin in the body because the pancreas simply cannot produce any insulin. Type 2 is when the pancreas cannot produce enough insulin and the muscles and tissues are resistant to that insulin. Both forms of diabetes can come with other complications, which can be improved upon with exercise, such as obesity, cholesterol buildup on artery walls and cardiovascular disease.

By maintaining a healthy weight through exercising and specifically targeting excess fat around the abdomen, stored fat cells are reduced and cells of the muscles and tissue are stimulated to utilize insulin in a better way.