benefits of exercise for the elderlyExercise is one of the most important activities to maintain independence in older adults.

Despite this, becoming more sedentary with age is often the reality.

Staying fit and healthy for as long as possible help improve happiness and quality of life. So in this article, we'll explore the concrete benefits of moving more.

1. Maintains independent living - This is perhaps the main benefit of exercising into older age. While care homes are essential for some, many older adults would like to live independently in their own homes for as long as possible. Maintaining an exercise regimen that supports this lifestyle is vital.

2. Better cardiovascular health - Physical activity for adults and older adults reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease by 35%. Heart attacks and strokes are medical conditions, that if survived, often result in life-altering consequences. Exercise can, therefore, be a huge preventative intervention.  

3. May assist cognitive function - Dementia affects many older adults, with the Alzheimers Society indicating there are predicted to be over 1 million people with the condition by 2025. Some studies have suggested that exercise is a measure that may help reduce the incidence of the disease. 

4. Reduces anxiety and depression - Many older adults may face social withdrawal, illness or disability, any of which can result in mental health issues. Exercise has a range of cognitive benefits, with studies showing that it reduces anxiety and depression, boasting a significant reduction in relapse compared to other interventions.

5. Helps with flexibility - Osteoarthritic pain poses a significant issue for older adults, with joints and muscles becoming stiff and immobile. While an exercise regimen can't reverse all age-related joint changes, maintaining movement in muscles and joints is essential to decrease discomfort. 

6. Improves strength - Muscles waste without exercise. In the same way that movement improves flexibility, the right resistance training strengthens important muscle groups to keep you independently mobile. This is especially useful when going from sitting to standing, up and down stairs or walking. 

7. Improves bone density - Many older adults suffer from a condition called osteoporosis, where bones weaken and become more susceptible to fractures. Performing regular resistance training is proven to maintain bone strength in later years.

8. Prevents falls - Falls are a significant risk when people lose flexibility, strength and coordination. Other risk factors might also include illness or disability. Exercise can reduce the risk of falls, injuries and potential hospital admissions.

9. Maintains hobbies - If an individual loses the ability to participate in activities due to inactivity, it can have negative physical and psychological repercussions. Hobbies are essential to remain socially connected and engaged in life.

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10. Assists weight loss - Diet and inactivity can contribute to weight gain in later years, resulting in a higher incidence of associated medical conditions. Exercise is not only a calorie burning activity but can also encourage you to pursue a healthier diet. Furthermore, physical activity can reduce the likelihood of Type Two Diabetes by up to 40%.

11. Forms a cornerstone habit - Exercise is a habit that has been shown by behavioural scientists to facilitate other productive routines, such as healthy eating and social interaction. Physical activity can, therefore, have a host of positive knock-on effects. 

12. Improves sleep - Getting enough sleep has been demonstrated to reduce the incidence of chronic physical and mental health conditions and is therefore essential for our emotional well-being. Exercise can help reduce mental activity as well as induce physical fatigue, assisting sleep patterns. 

13. Sustains social connections - Exercise, when performed in a social environment, not only keeps you accountable but is hugely rewarding. Whether that's an exercise class at the local leisure centre or a regular walk in the park with a friend, reinforcing social bonds is a vital component of good health in later years. 

14. Increases confidence - More than simply the physical benefits of exercise, regular movement and training can be confidence boosting, nourishing the mind-body connection. Moreover, higher self-esteem through exercise can provide a happiness boost and greater quality of life in later years.

15. Increases lifespan - Studies have demonstrated that regular exercise can add 3-5 years to life expectancy figures. Physical activity not only adds years but improves the quality of those years.

16. It's fun! Why do children play games? They don't consider the exercise benefits, but rather regard movement as its own reward. Although you might find it hard to return to exercise after a long absence, you'll soon enjoy the progress as your fitness and mobility levels improve. 

If you have a medical condition or are unsure what type of physical activity is appropriate, it's best to consult with your GP or physiotherapist before exercising. 

What's more, it's advisable to start small, allowing your body to accommodate to a new level of activity in order to prevent injury.

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Author: Joel Key, Marketing Manager

Joel trained in health and has since undertaken various digital media roles to help organisations fulfil their mission. At The Care Workers Charity, he combines his passion for health, social care and marketing to assist the growth of this wonderful cause.