Physical activity is often times something that starts to fall by the wayside as people get older. It’s no secret that regular exercise has positive benefits, but why is it that as we get older one of the best things that we can do for our bodies gets ignored? Exercise doesn’t have to be high-intensity sprints or focused miles on a treadmill. Staying active can be a social activity such as exploring new scenery with a hiking buddy.
The benefits are clear:
As we get older shedding away the fat may get a little tougher than in the past. In the United States, 30% of adults 65 and older are considered obese. Our metabolism slows and less incidental activity may cause us to put on a couple pounds. That is why it is important to purposely go out and burn those calories. Weight management is a matter of calories in vs. calories out, so be mindful of how much goes in even if the exercise has got your appetite up!
Stronger Joints and Bones
One common deterrent to exercise is joint pain that naturally occurs as we get older. The ironic thing is, the more we keep up the exercise the healthier the joint get. Slowly over time the muscles around the joints build up and can help support the aching parts. Low to no impact exercises can be a work around to common problem areas such as the knees. Swimming can be a great exercise that doesn’t put much stress on the joints, or a light hike on flat trails rather than the hills.
Reduced Chance of Chronic Disease
These include heart disease, diabetes, and high cholesterol. These chronic diseases have a significantly increased chance of showing up if one is living a sedentary lifestyle and may not immediately show symptoms. It is important to see your doctor with regular visits to ask for advice to prevent these from affecting your lifestyle.
The list could go on. Living an active lifestyle can also be preventative of accidents that cause injury. Studies show that fall-related death and injury are increasing among both men and women aged over 65.
The body is not the only thing that gets benefited through exercise. Mental health has also shown to drastically increase by physical activity. Exercise before or after a long day can really be a mood booster for those that put the time in.
According to the American Psychological Association, when doing physical activity our brain increases the production of norepinephrine, a chemical that helps the brain deal with stress. In my experience, my best work comes from when I am calm and collected, and not ready to explode in panic. The more sedentary we become, the harder it is for our bodies to produce this anti-stress agent. So go out and build up that norepinephrine!
If you feel like the older you get the less room your brain has for new things, studies would agree with you. Luckily, exercise helps build the cells in the hippocampus which is largely responsible for memory. While you may not get photographic memory overnight, the brain is a muscle that can be improved just like any other. This can help combat the natural aging that causes us to forget things here and there.
Studies show that after a workout, creativity is boosted for about two hours. This is independent of mood, so whether you are working out to relieve stress or to stay healthy, unleash your creative side in your daily life. Often times seeing your problems from other perspectives helps in finding the best solution. Perhaps going on a walk while thinking on problems your struggling with can bring out that creative side and help find the answer you’re looking for.
Not only can your physical and mental well-being be improved through an active lifestyle, but your socially these things can all be tied together. Joining meetup groups to go on hiking trails, signing up for yoga classes, or even playing a round of golf with your friends can all be great ideas to keep social.