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Promoting Greater Well-Being for Our Seniors

Part Three, Activity

Beyond the Bedside is a series of articles that address the major issues surrounding the care of our senior population, with a focus on elements outside of bedside care. There are many other factors to consider when discussing a person’s overall health. Living an active lifestyle is a key component of maintaining good physical and mental health.

Regular movement promotes overall health and well-being, but it is especially critical for older adults. A healthy lifestyle can help reduce the chance of developing heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. Notably, maintaining strength and balance can help our loved ones retain independence as they age by reducing the chance of falls.  

Use it or Lose It

The freedom that many seniors enjoy in retirement sometimes comes at a physical cost. According to the Centers for Disease Control, only about 23% of all U.S adults get enough exercise per week. 

As we age, it becomes more challenging to maintain a healthy lifestyle. As our physical activity declines, the value of staying active increases. The lack of physical activity and social connections leads to more sedentary behavior, which can have severe repercussions on our health.

The Importance of Exercise: Why It Matters Most For Seniors

Living a more active lifestyle can help maintain mobility for years to come. It can also improve socialization and overall health. For seniors, staying active might be challenging because, like many adults, they often become less active with age. However, staying active is essential for good health as we age. With this in mind, many factors influence a senior’s physical activity level and the overall quality of their lifestyle:

  • Balance and strength exercises focusing on coordination, control, and flexibility can help reduce the risk of falling. The most effective strategy for reducing the risk of falling is to maintain an active lifestyle.
  • Staying physically active reduces the risk of stroke and heart disease. It can also help manage symptoms of other health conditions such as diabetes or arthritis.
  • Physical activity helps to reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia. Exercise increases brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels, supporting the brain’s long-term memory and learning processes.
  • Avoiding sedentary behaviors has been linked to carrying less body fat and having a more robust immune system. 
  • Physical activity can help boost energy levels, improve sleep habits, and decrease the risk of depression.

How Much Physical Activity Do Seniors Need?

Keep in mind that each individual is different and unique. These numbers and figures indicate the amount of exercise you should perform on a weekly basis, but don’t be afraid to encourage your loved ones to experiment with their own regimen as well.

Individuals aged 65 and over who are in good health and have no medical concerns, which may impede their ability to follow the suggestions, may follow the guidelines.

The CDC recommends that seniors participate in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity weekly. According to research, combining aerobic activity with strength conditioning, balance training, and flexibility exercises is not just recommended by the experts, but they’re absolutely necessary.

What Does a Typical Week of Activity Look Like?

The following is an example of how the 150-minute guideline and two days of strength training might appear.

Aerobic Activity Examples

5 Days a Week for 30 Minutes

  • Brisk walking
  • Heavy cleaning
  • Pushing a lawnmower
  • Raking, yard work
  • Hiking
  • Easy jogging
  • Swimming
  • Gardening
  • Dancing
  • Biking
  • Yoga

Strength Training Examples

2 Days a Week or More

  • Resistance band workouts
  • Pilates
  • Yoga
  • Wall push-ups
  • Chair squats
  • Step-ups
  • Overhead press
  • Biceps curl
  • Side hip raise
  • Knee extensions
  • Bodyweight training

Experts recommend doing two sets of major muscle group-targeted exercises for strength and mobility at least twice a week. The major muscle groups are legs, hips, back, chest, abdomen, shoulders, and arms. You will find information here regarding counts and how much weight, if any, you should use for each repetition.

11 Ways to Increase Physical Activity Without Even Trying

These shortcuts are supplemental to regular physical activity. You may find these activities helpful in increasing your everyday activity levels without even being aware of it. Please keep in mind that increased physical activity will lead to further health benefits.

  1. Park farther away
  2. Clean and make your bed
  3. Wash your dishes by hand
  4. Take the stairs
  5. Balance on one leg while brushing your teeth
  6. Dance
  7. Engage your core while sitting 
  8. Choose a stability ball over a chair
  9. Stand while you talk on the phone
  10. Set move reminders or timers
  11. Walk or play with your pets

A Tip for Success

We are all aware that our motivation dwindles and plans are liable to change. Exercising first thing in the morning is a well-known trick that works. Getting your exercise in first implies that you’ve not only prioritized your health, but you’ve also avoided scheduling conflicts. Exercising also sets a pleasant tone for the day, and as a result, you’ll naturally want to eat healthier.

Maintaining an Active Lifestyle

As we’ve seen, the most important thing isn’t what you do for exercise but that you are doing something regularly. As we age, this lifestyle trio – fitness, nutrition, and social engagement – becomes more relevant than ever. Staying fit is not only essential to reduce the risk of disease; it helps boost confidence and enhance self-esteem and energy levels. The most crucial aspect of living an active lifestyle is you

An Important Reminder

The importance of an active lifestyle is often overlooked. Sometimes a caregiver doesn’t have enough time to themselves and can easily start neglecting their health for the sake of those they love. While we acknowledge this article was created with our seniors in mind, we also imply that caregivers must also care for themselves to continue to care for others. Your health matters! 

Further Reading

Part 1, Social Isolation

Part 2, Creativity

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