Everyone knows they are supposed to eat their vegetables and get some exercise to stay healthy, but not all partake in a regular senior fitness routine. For seniors, the regimen of going to the gym or doing aerobic activity and strength training not only can improve physical well-being, but also have an effect on the quality of life later on.
Never too late
One of the best things about exercise is that there is always something for everyone and it is never too late to start moving. Whether it's dancing, walking, swimming, biking or running, there are numerous ways for seniors to start a regular fitness routine to stay healthy and protect themselves from disease.
Studies have shown that starting regular physical activity later in life can be extremely beneficial for the body and brain, even if the person was inactive before. According to a study from the British Journal of Sports Medicine, those who exercised at least once a week were expected to age more healthily than those who did not. Additionally, those who started exercising just three times per week were three to four times more likely to age more healthily than their counterparts. Seniors who were already active and continued to exercise regularly were seven times more likely to age healthily.
When it comes to getting started, some seniors may have a fear of injury or not know where to begin. The simplest way is to start by taking a daily walk or joining an exercise group. Finding an activity that is enjoyable or social can help ensure that seniors will stick with their fitness program for the long run. Over time, it is important to build up strength by adding time and intensity onto a workout. This can be as simple as walking a little farther each week.
Exercise boosts memory care
It is well known that exercise has a very positive effect on the body and mind, but recent research has shown that regular senior fitness is even more important than previously thought.
According to a study by the Center for Brain Health at the University of Texas-Dallas, exercising as few as three times per week for six weeks can have brain-boosting effects. After six weeks of regular exercise, participants in the study had increased blood flow to the brain in areas that are essential for memory care and attention. After 12 weeks, exercise was found to be beneficial in restoring memory.
Beyond memory, the study found that exercise can actually improve mood and limit symptoms of depression. People who exercised also slept better, which is important for brain function and memory. While many may be averse to running, a brisk walk that could be considered aerobic activity was found to have the same brain-boosting effects as other exercises.
What is perhaps most interesting about the research are the findings on brain activity. According to the study, there is never a resting moment for the brain as we get older.
"We are now beginning to have very strong evidence that you can build brain resilience," said Sandra Chapman, author of the Center for Brain Health study. "Every day your brain moves forward or backward – it doesn't stay the same for a single moment."
Of course, the other part of staying healthy has to do with diet. According to a report by the AARP, those who eat a healthy diet with plenty of vegetables, fruits, fish, grains and olive oil were 46 percent more likely to avoid diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimers.
Commonly known as the Mediterranean diet, many seniors have begun adopting these essentials as their main sources of food. Not only are many foods on the Mediterranean diet good for the brain, they are also heart-healthy and can protect against cardiovascular disease.
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