The Importance of Fitness for Older Adults

Do you want to know the best time to get in shape? Right now! And the best thing about fitness is that it’s never too late to start becoming more fit. For active older adults, fitness is a key part of living a healthy and engaged lifestyle. Even if you’re admittedly out of shape or it’s been some time since you’ve really exercised regularly, Thrive’s senior living lifestyle makes it easy – and fun – to get moving!

You know that exercise is good for your health, but what exactly can it do? What are the benefits? Let’s take a closer look at why fitness is important for the aging body and how you can go about getting the most out of exercise and fitness.

Staying fit and staying mobile

Staying active and leading an independent lifestyle is most easily achieved if you’re mobile and able to get around easily on your own. In order to maintain mobility, fitness is key. In a 2014 study, 1,600 adults aged 70–89 who experienced mobility issues were separated into groups that either engaged in regular physical activities or focused only on health education. At the end of the study, the adults who participated in regular physical activities could walk more easily and at faster rates than the adults who focused only on health education. 

By remaining sedentary, muscles and other parts of the body that facilitate movement go unused. As time goes on, moving only becomes more difficult – but by staying active or re-introducing physical activity into your daily routine, you can stay mobile and, better yet, stay quick and confident on your feet!  

Taking steps to a healthier you

Walking provides one of the easiest ways to stay active and stay fit. Brisk, sustained walking is best. So, when the weather’s nice, even taking some laps around your Thrive senior living community can provide great exercise and a chance to get some fresh air. Walking can strengthen muscles, promote healthy weight, improve joint health, and even boost energy levels.

Going for walks with friends, neighbors, and Thrive team members can make staying fit that much more fun. Who says walking and fitness shouldn’t be social? You might also like keeping track of your steps and making note of your progress. A clip-on step counter or the step counter app on your smartphone smart watch, or fitness watch can help you track just how many steps you’re getting. Make a goal and see if you can increase your step count over time.  

The core Is key

You might think that strong legs are the key to balance and maintaining mobility – and while leg strength is beneficial, core strength is even more essential to balance, mobility, and general strength as you age. Core muscles include the abdominals, obliques, glutes, and other muscles on the front, sides, and back of the torso. Maintaining core strength is critical for better strength, stability, and total-body health. The core is at the center of every movement you do, so keeping this part of your body in shape can improve mobility and make all sorts of daily tasks easier. 

You don’t need to be an Olympian to strengthen your core muscles, nor do you need to struggle through sit-ups and crunches. Simple types of stretches, yoga poses, and squats can all strengthen the core. So even if your balance or footing might not be at its strongest, there are many techniques for strengthening your core and getting back on balance!

How much activity is needed?

When it comes to fitness, any activity is better than none. With that said, try to get in 150 minutes (or two and a half hours) of moderate-intensity exercise each week. To get up to that amount, you might try walking, cycling, dancing, or participating in one of many fitness classes that Thrive offers. 

It’s also important to build up to a comfortable activity level. Don’t dive into a miles-long walk if you’re still trying to build up your balance and strength. You will want to make sure to warm up beforehand and cool down afterward – and begin each session with low-intensity activity. Even when taking it slow at first, the benefits of fitness and better strength can be quickly realized. 

What are the benefits of staying fit?

Fitness provides many benefits regardless of age, but for active older adults, staying in shape is especially important for maintaining an independent lifestyle and improving health all around. Regular physical activity can help prevent common diseases such as heart disease and diabetes and can improve mental health. Regular exercise also improves strength and flexibility, which is helpful for preventing falls. Studies also suggest that exercise improves cognitive function. 

There is no real substitute for exercise and physical activity, either. Even if you eat well, stay engaged, and sleep well, exercise is in its own category for proper health. 

Staying fit but being careful 

If you’re adding exercise to your daily routine, that’s great! But before getting too active, be sure to talk with your doctor or a healthcare professional about exercising safely. Ask if there are any exercises or types of activities that you should avoid or ones that need to be introduced carefully. Some health conditions limit the types of activities that should be performed. For example, if you have arthritis, you may need to avoid some types of exercise when joints are swollen or inflamed, but there are plenty of other options so make sure to consult with your doctor. 

Getting active, staying active

No matter your chosen activity, doing something is better than doing nothing! It’s never too late to start exercising, and even if you’re not as mobile as you’d like to be, exercise and physical activity can help you to regain mobility and strength. Some exercises can even be performed sitting down. 

Thrive knows well the importance of physical fitness for active older adults. The fitness classes and other group physical activities offered in our communities are a great way to stay in shape, regain strength, and even make some new friends! At Thrive, you’re an Athlete regardless of age; an Athlete is any person who does the best with whatever ability they have! We love seeing our residents staying active, and we’re more than happy to help with maintaining, or establishing, fitness goals for everyone. Contact a Thrive Senior Living community near you today.

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