While there are many who believe that seniors should slow down in their golden years, it’s actually vital that they remain active in mind and body, continue to move, and watch what they eat. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), seniors can benefit from regular physical and mental activity. Let’s dive deeper into each of these activities.
Benefits of physical exercise
Physical exercise can help reduce the risk of falling and fracturing bones, reduce blood pressure in people with hypertension, lower anxiety levels and depression, control joint swelling and pain, and maintain healthy bones, muscles and joints.
Suggested physical exercises
Seniors don’t need to perform strenuous physical workouts, although seniors who were already physically active when they were younger, could still continue some of the workout routines their bodies are used to. Even light physical activities can provide the same benefits. Some of these include:
- Water aerobics – Water provides a natural resistance, much like weights in strength training. You can do some flutter kicking, leg lifts, arm curls, and other similar water exercises.
- Chair yoga – Sitting on a chair while doing arm and leg exercises gives seniors support while doing low-impact movements. Chair yoga brings mental benefits such as better sleep, reduced bouts of depression, and a general sense of well-being.
- Walking – It’s one of the simplest, most inexpensive, and accessible forms of exercise with cardio benefits. Walking strengthens muscles and lowers the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and colon cancer.
- Body weight workouts – This is one of the best ways to counter muscle atrophy and does not make exercise strenuous since the senior is only using his own body weight as resistance. All you need is light clothes and a mat.
- Tai Chi or Qigong – Tai chi or qigong come from a Chinese tradition that looks like a graceful, flowing exercise. They are performed slowly, harnessing energy around the body, and accompanied by deep breathing timed with the movements.
Benefits of mental exercise
Giving the brain a mental workout is just as important as physical exercise and prevents atrophy. Mental exercises stimulate the brain, sharpen thinking, reasoning, memory, and processing skills.
Suggested mental exercises
Here are some examples of activities that involve the brain and can help cognitive decline.
- Puzzles – Crossword puzzles, Sudoku, jigsaw puzzles, and other similar puzzles are fun, but they also require thinking and developing strategies. Puzzles help seniors cope with various mental health issues.
- Crafts – Those who engage in crafts such as pottery and quilting have been found to have lowered risks of developing memory loss. Completing a craft project also boosts confidence in seniors.
- Music – Playing a musical instrument stimulates emotions and also boosts alertness. Listening to music evokes emotions and memories. Singing releases stress and is great for curbing anxiety.
- Writing – Writing stimulates brain cells and improves recall. Using good, old-fashioned pen and paper is usually best for this exercise although typing out on a laptop or tablet is also fine. Keeping a diary, making checklists, or writing short poetry keeps the creative side of the brain active.
Medline Plus enumerates some of the food ideal for seniors that contain a lot of nutrients without much of the calories, including fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat or fat-free dairy, seafood, lean meats, poultry, eggs, beans, nuts, and seeds.
For seniors who have been athletes or into bodybuilding in their younger years, there is an interesting senior story about Sylvester “Sly” Stallone from the “Rocky” films. While training for this role, Sly went into a workout routine that squeezed more muscle and less weight into his body. He looked good on the outside, but on the inside, his body was a mess.
Now, as a senior, Sly is a proponent of healthy eating habits. His diet is more balanced, suited to his age and physical needs, and still allows him cheat days. This link explains his journey from externally-fit-but-a-mess-inside person to one who lives life better with a healthy body that he maintains the right way.