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Why Is Physical Exercise Important for the Elderly?

By Darla Ferrara

Physical activity is vital at any age, but as you grow older, changes set in that make exercise even more crucial. Conditions that typically develop with aging can be delayed when you stay active. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that physical activity can even extend life expectancy. Always consult your doctor before beginning an exercise program.

Mobility

When you grow older, bones can become brittle and the muscles shorten. An elderly person can lose the balance and coordination that they have had their entire lives. Staying active helps keep the body flexible. Stretching routines will lengthen muscle tissue and help prevent wasting and shortening. Exercise can reduce incidents of arthritis and osteoporosis by increasing bone density and joint range of motion. If you are currently being treated for any chronic illness, your doctor can advise you of safe exercises that will improve your health.

Strong Heart

One critical component of aging is heart health. Regular exercise helps to keep the heart muscle in shape and can ward off common cardiac problems. Exercising at even a light intensity will raise the heart rate and improve overall fitness. Cardiovascular training for the elderly increases respiratory intake and helps fight common illnesses, such as a cold or the flu. Vascular occlusion, or the blocking of arteries, can occur when you grow older. Exercise can help reduce the risk by lowering blood cholesterol.

Mental Health

Exercise is a natural mood enhancer. When you work out, the body releases endorphins that make you feel capable. If you are elderly and fighting the psychological effects of aging, exercise may be the key to giving you drive and energy. A sedentary lifestyle can affect you at any age, but after retirement, the days may seem longer. Take part in an exercise program to help fill some of the hours. An ordinary walk when you feel blue will enhance your spirits. Exercise will also improve cognitive functions. As you age, your memory may not be as clear as it once was. Exercise can help improve mental focus.

Considerations

There is no down side to regular exercise as you grow older. Even if traditional programs will not work because of physical constraints, you can still be active. Wheelchair fitness DVDs and stretching can improve your health and help fight off illness. Many problems associated with growing older will improve if you stay active, as long as your doctor gives you the OK.

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