What do you envision when you hear the word “exercise?” A young, fit person running a marathon? Muscular individuals bench pressing twice their weight? Well maybe it’s time to rethink the meaning of the word. In its purest form, exercise is simply keeping your body moving. It is well-documented that exercise reaps tremendous physical and mental benefits for seniors. For example:
- Cardiovascular exercise gets the heart pumping faster, which helps distribute oxygen and nutrients to the whole body. It can give you more energy and improve your endurance.
- Strength training helps you build and maintain muscle, prevent bone loss and improve balance.
- Activities that improve flexibility increase range of motion and keep muscles and joints limber.
- Balance activities decrease the risk of falls and improve mobility.
- Exercise produces endorphins, which reduce feelings of sadness or depression. It also increases confidence.
- Being physically active keeps the brain active, which helps prevent memory loss, problems with thinking or reasoning, and dementia.
So how do you get started?
- Talk to your healthcare provider. Ask what activities he/she recommends and what activities you should avoid.
- If there is a fitness professional available to you (many senior living communities have them on staff) talk with him/her about your fitness goals.
- Increase your daily activity gradually.
The good thing about exercise is you can customize a program that works for you. You can simply make it a point to stand or walk more for starters. If you use a wheelchair, you can stretch, flex and lift while seated. You can use a fully equipped exercise room like some of those at the Welch Group’s facilities, practice strength training using soup cans from your own kitchen cabinet, or incorporate favorite activities once the weather turns warm, such as spring and summer gardening into your routine.
The other good thing about exercise is that it is actually fun—especially when you do it with friends or neighbors. Welch Healthcare & Retirement Group’s Allerton House assisted living communities offer a variety of activities for residents of all ages and physical abilities, from enthusiastic baton-waving Conductorcise classes to rousing Chair Zumba classes.
So as the new year begins, don’t let you age or physical condition discourage you from exercising. In fact, use them as your motivation to improve your body, mind and spirit.