Exercise… Is it important? Or is it one of those things that only the extremely athletic and fit people should do? You know, the ones that run marathons or try out for the Olympics. That’s the view that a lot of people have about the word exercise. I’m not going to ever be an athlete, so why even try? Unfortunately, that kind of mindset can really harm your physical and emotional wellbeing and outlook on life, especially as you age. Exercise is extremely important for everyone, especially the elderly. Let’s look at some of the reasons why.
Improves Bone Density and Prevents Muscle Deterioration
As we age, our bone density and muscle mass decreases. This can cause us to become less mobile and also affects our balance. Exercise can help change that. It can help your muscles stay strong and flexible. And can help your balance be more stable as well. Falls are a big risk for the elderly. Nobody wants that! So, having a good exercise regimen can help prevent them. It can also help prevent diseases like osteoporosis.
Prevent or Delay Disease
Regular exercise is a good preventative for many chronic conditions. Studies show that people who have diseases like diabetes, arthritis, and heart disease would all benefit from exercise. It can prevent high cholesterol and stroke. And can also help with getting a good night’s sleep and regulating the bowels.
Mental and Emotional Wellbeing
Endorphins is the magical word here! When we exercise our body releases endorphins into the brain, which causes the feeling of happiness! The release of endorphins helps prevent depression, which is something that many people who transition into an assisted living or nursing home frequently struggle with. Exercise can help you feel accomplished and have a positive outlook on your day. And give your day some meaning. Overall, it can help improve your quality of life as you grow older! And don’t forget about also exercising the mind! Doing things like puzzles, sudoku, crosswords, participating in music and playing games are all ways to keep the mind sharp! This will better your focus and help prevent diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s.
So, how do we motivate ourselves to exercise as we get older?
Switching things up can be one way. Going on walks, stretching, and doing a water aerobics class are all ways that help seniors stay fit, but are also easy on the joints. If you are living in an assisted living home or nursing home, participate in the activities! Joining in with others who are in the same stage of life as you can really motivate you. Activities in the homes can also bring out your inner competition. I didn’t realize that my grandma had a competitive streak until she started participating in the activities in the nursing home. And if the assisted living or nursing home that you live in has therapy, I would like to encourage you to go to it. The therapy workers can help you build/maintain your strength in a safe and healthy way. Overall, just remember that staying active can help provide you with a better quality of life. And I think that is something that deep down everybody wants.
Age comes with a variety of fun & not so fun side effects. For some people, arthritis will be a daily burden, for others it will be a loss of vision or hearing. For many people, especially women, osteoporosis is something to be constantly aware of.
Osteoporosis is a condition (often occurring during aging) which causes brittle or fragile bones. It can have various causes, but deficiencies in Vitamin D & Calcium are likely found in people that have this condition.
This brittleness of the bones can make it much easier for the bones to fracture or break. Hip bones, spine, & wrist bones are some of the most common bones affected. A proper diagnosis should be sought if you suspect that you have osteoporosis, but what practical, non -medical steps can you take to combat this loss of density?
1st. A healthy diet. A balanced diet is important for all bodily functions, including that maintenance of bones & tissues. Eating food which give you the required amounts of Vitamin D and Calcium for your body is important. Some foods high in Vitamin D are egg yolks, yogurt, almonds, salmon, & mushrooms. Foods high in calcium include: almonds, broccoli, oranges, cheese, navy beans, etc. These lists are by no means exhaustive, but are a starting place while looking at your diet. It’s important that your diet is varied & includes fresh ingredients so that you can get the most nutrition out of the foods that you are ingesting.
2nd. Supplements. If you find out that you are deficient in certain vitamins & minerals, be sure that you begin a regimen that includes them as supplements. Also, be sure to research whether the vitamin or mineral that you are lacking needs another supplement to be absorbed appropriately. Iron, for instance, needs Vitamin C for your body to adequately absorb the iron. Many doctors recommend taking fish oil capsules to help build bone density as we age.
3rd. Exercise. Different types of exercise can be helpful for those suffering from osteoporosis. It may seem strange, as we often think of bones as being somewhat like 2X4’s in a building, simply framework. But, bones are living things consisting of tissues that can also be strengthened from within. If we give the bones what they need & then continue with a good exercise routine, it can make all the difference in the health of our bones. Weight-bearing exercise should be approached first. Build up your bones by doing activities that require you to work against gravity. This may be as simple as carrying in groceries, or picking up jugs of water from the floor, or even climbing stairs. Use different sets of muscles & bones, but be consistent.
4th. Other lifestyle changes. Be sure that you stop doing things that could be draining your body of the life-giving measures that you are taking through nutrition & supplements. Stop smoking if you do so. If you drink caffeinated beverages, stop. Caffeine seems to give energy & life, but, it depletes your body of the calcium that you are working so hard to build back up.
All of us have different challenges as we age, but facing them head-on with strength instead of fear can make all the difference in us aging with dignity. Osteoporosis is one such struggle, but in need not limit your life if you’re willing to face it & make necessary changes!