It is common knowledge that getting enough exercise is important for all individuals, regardless of age. Our bodies are incredible machines that are designed for movement and physical activity. The term, “use it or lose it”, is a very relevant way to describe the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle.
While all age groups benefit greatly from exercise, elderly individuals experience side effects from the natural process of aging that necessitate physical activity even more so. In this article, we will briefly highlight five very important reasons why working out through the middle to late years of life is critical.
One of the more drastic changes that occur in the body due to the aging process is a reduction in the strength of the skeletal system. This variable is measured by what is called bone mineral density (BMD). While men and women will both experience this decrease to some degree, women are even more prone to a drop in their BMD due to hormonal changes that are brought on during menopause.
A large percentage of older individuals lose enough bone mineral density that a diagnosis of osteoporosis, which is a dangerously low BMD, is warranted. Working out has long been a well-established way of mitigating this issue.
The skeletal system, much like the rest of the body, adapts to the stimuli that it experiences. During activities that put a prolonged amount of weight and stress on the bones, the body receives a signal to add more mass to the skeleton.
Holding On To Muscle Mass
Another unfortunate part of growing older is a condition known as sarcopenia. This is characterized by a gradual decrease in lean muscle tissue as an individual gets older. In fact, men tend to lose as much as 30% of their muscle mass during the lifespan.
Maintaining as much muscle mass as possible later on in life is essential for many important factors that improve overall quality of life. Greater muscle mass equates to more strength, therefore, an individual is able to maintain a higher level of function and greatly reduce their risk of injury from preventable causes such as falling.
Working out is an important habit earlier in life to build a solid foundation of lean muscle tissue, but just as crucial as a person ages in order to preserve as much hard earned muscle mass as possible.
Keeping The Brain Youthful
Cognitive decline is a well-known detriment affecting the elderly population. The most severe example of this, Alzheimer’s disease, affects millions of individuals over the age of 65.
However, working out has been proven time after time in the research to vastly reduce an individual’s risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Furthermore, studies have indicated that compared to their sedentary peers, older adults that exercise regular tend to have significantly more brain mass.
Heart disease remains one of the leading causes of death worldwide. The risk of heart problems only increases with age, as functional changes within the blood vessels and the heart itself do not allow the cardiovascular system to do its job optimally.
Exercising to improve and maintain the efficiency of the cardiovascular system is a lifelong requirement. According to the research, there is a significant negative correlation between heart attacks, stroke and heart-related death and increased levels of exercise with regards to older adults.
Lower Risk Of Mortality (30-80% Lower)
As you have most likely gathered from the previous subjects, working out as you age greatly increases your quality of life, which obviously goes hand in hand with a decrease in the risk of premature death! Working out improves virtually every facet of bodily function, and no one ever becomes “too old” to exercise.
Simply put, studies indicate that, after the age of 65, people who get enough exercise are 30-80% less likely to die prematurely than those who do not. Most would agree that those are pretty good odds!
Harvard Health Publishing. (n.d.). Preserve your muscle mass. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/preserve-your-muscle-mass
Nylen, E. S., Kokkinos, P., Myers, J., & Faselis, C. (2010). Prognostic Effect of Exercise Capacity on Mortality in Older Adults with Diabetes Mellitus. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 58(10), 1850–1854. doi: 10.1111/j.1532-5415.2010.03068.x
Regular Exercise Prevents Heart Disease in Elderly Adults. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.cardiosmart.org/News-and-Events/2015/12/Regular-Exercise-Prevents-Heart-Disease-in-Elderly-Adults
Rolland, Y., Kan, G. A. V., & Vellas, B. (2010). Healthy Brain Aging: Role of Exercise and Physical Activity. Clinics in Geriatric Medicine, 26(1), 75–87. doi: 10.1016/j.cger.2009.11.002
Shanb, A., & Youssef, E. (2014). The impact of adding weight-bearing exercise versus nonweight bearing programs to the medical treatment of elderly patients with osteoporosis. Journal of Family and Community Medicine, 21(3), 176. doi: 10.4103/2230-8229.142972