Seniors are the fastest-growing segment of the population around the world. Americans are increasingly living into their 90s, and the US Census Bureau has estimated that over 20 percent of the population will be 65 or older by 2030. This means that senior health issues, fighting aging in particular, are more important than ever before. While I’ve spoken at length before about foods and drinks that can fight aging, sometimes you need some exercise as well. Even small amounts of physical activity can increase longevity, so that’s why it’s important to look into exercise. Listed here are eight exercises that can reduce the effects of aging, which I found in an article from Everyday Health:
Walking: Reaping the benefits of exercise doesn’t require running a marathon, even the little bits can go a long way. In one study made up of over 1,700 adults who were followed for six years, people over 65 who exercised for 15 minutes three times a week reduced their risk of dementia by a third. In another study, researchers found that walking 72 blocks a week halted brain shrinkage and reduced risk of developing cognitive decline and dementia by 50 percent.
Tai Chi: Falling is one of the greatest threats to senior health. They’re the leading cause of injury death and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are the most common cause of nonfatal injuries and hospital trauma admissions among adults over 65. One in three seniors falls each year, leading to more than 2 million injuries and almost 20,000 deaths, which is why it’s so important to know how to maintain balance. One great way to do this is to practice tai chi, which involves a series of gentle stretches and poses that flow from each other with the purpose of focusing on your movement and breathing. Researchers from the University of North Carolina found that older people who took tai chi courses twice a week for eight weeks improved their balance and had an increased sense of well-being.
Yoga: Yoga, like tai chi, involves poses, stretches, controlled breathing and meditation, with the purpose of increasing your flexibility and strength. Several studies have suggested that “silver yoga”, geared towards the elderly, helps reduce body fat, systolic blood pressure and sleep disturbances among older people, while also improving their balance, endurance and overall fitness. Yoga also helps ease constipation and other symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
Strolling: While you might think staying in bed is the best thing to do in the hospital, it’s not always the case. One Israeli study found that older patients who walk around their rooms or hospital wards could shorten their stay by about a day and a half. The researchers say this is because senior health typically declines with immobility, and muscles will quickly lose their reserves without exercise. They also found that patients that exercised had shorter stays in hospitals.
Jogging: According to a study from the University of Colorado, running can help protect against memory loss after an illness. When older rats were recovering from E. coli infections, they tended to score higher on memory tests if they had unlimited access to an exercise wheel. Although these older rats ran 50 times less than the younger rats, they performed just as well on memory tests as the rats that weren’t exposed to E. coli.
Leg exercises: Swelling in your legs, calves and feet, sometimes known as “peripheral edema”, tends to come with the territory of aging. To reduce this swelling, you should lie on your side and circle your top leg in the air. You can also stand on the floor and raise yourself up so that just the balls of your feet are touching the ground. These exercises increase blood circulation and help fluid move more easily throughout your body.
Weight lifting: Osteoporosis is another common health problem among seniors. According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation, some 44 million people in the US, most of them over the age of 50, have osteoporosis or low bone mass, which leads to hip fractures, falls and other serious injuries. Studies show that load-bearing or weight-bearing exercises for at least 30 minutes three times a week can combat osteoporosis by forcing your body to work against gravity. These exercises also help you build muscles, which exert more force on your bones and causes them to become stronger and denser. Some good weight-bearing activities include walking, weight lifting and stair-climbing.
Swimming: A Canadian study recently found that people with arthritis can benefit from warm-water exercises, including swimming. Using 79 older adults with osteoarthritis of the hip, they found that swimming reduced people’s chances of falling and breaking a bone. Swimming has other anti-aging benefits, such as easing arthritis pain and boosting mobility. Swimming is able to strengthen your hip, back and abdominal muscles.