The National Institutes of Health (NIH) advises seniors to stay as active and fit as possible. While that’s good advice for anyone, this advice is especially important for seniors. As we age, the body changes. We may see diminishing muscle mass, loss of flexibility, perhaps weight gain. But many changes can be offset by maintaining good fitness. That means it is important to participate in regular exercise and physical activities, even if moderate. Here are some of the benefits of maintaining fitness as we age.
Four Types of Fitness
The most effective routines address four key types of fitness:
- Strength – building and maintaining muscle strength and function
- Flexibility – keeping joints and muscles moving with ease
- Endurance – sustaining movement that improves cardiovascular health
- Balance – staying secure and strong on our feet, a key to preventing falls
Advantages of Strength Training
Maintaining and building strength is the foundation of all fitness. Keeping our muscles active and strong is essential for movement. Then it becomes easier—and more fun—to engage in other activities that build endurance and flexibility. Aside from those advantages, research has shown additional benefits of strength training, some of which may surprise you.
- Decreased lower back pain
- Decreased pain from osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis
- Lowered blood pressure, and when combined with cardio exercise, the benefits can increase
- Increased bone density
- Improved metabolic function
More Reasons to Stay Fit
Aside from the physical benefits of strengthening the body, there are other reasons to keep active. These may include improved brain function, stress reduction, improved mood, and increased social engagement.
The American Senior Fitness Association has these recommendations for getting started with an exercise program:
- First, always check with your doctor before starting an exercise program.
- Reduce or suspend exercise if you’re injured, sick, or have a fever.
- Always warm up before and cool down after exercise.
- Drink plenty of water before, during, and after exercise.
- Avoid heavy meals before exercise.
- If you feel significant fatigue or discomfort after working out, cut back a little the next time you exercise. What works one day may be different the next, so don’t be surprised if you’re not doing the same level of exercise every day. If, however, your fatigue or discomfort is extreme, it is best to see your doctor as a precaution.