Benefits of Exercise for Seniors

Jan 31, 2024 | Health & Wellness

No matter your age or physical limitations, it is never too late to develop an exercise routine. And while it might seem daunting to know where to begin, you’ll find as we go through the benefits of exercise for seniors just how well worth it living an active lifestyle is! 

1. Helps Maintain Independence

Independence is something that, from the very beginning, we long for. And as we age, many factors impact that ability to remain independent. Unfortunately, some factors that rob us of our self-sufficiency are out of our control. But regular exercise, which has been shown to help maintain independence in older adults, is something that we can control. A regular exercise routine is important for preserving strength and flexibility, therefore, overall mobility. And mobility is the foundation of independence. Research even shows that a lack of physical activity is more to blame for limiting an older person’s mobility than age.

2. Improves Brain Function

Research demonstrates that regular physical activity stimulates the brain, improving cognitive function by up to 15%. Additionally, exercise reduces inflammation in the brain and even promotes new brain cell growth.

3. Reduces Risk of Chronic Disease

Regular exercise protects against a host of chronic diseases, including heart disease, multiple types of cancers, diabetes, and hypertension. If you already have a chronic condition, exercise can help lessen the symptoms.

4. Improves Mental Health

Exercise pumps up your endorphins (the “feel good” hormone), which act as a natural stress reliever and mood booster. Exercise has also been linked to improving sleep, which can be especially beneficial for those who suffer from irregular sleep patterns or insomnia.

Creating an Exercise Routine

While exercise is imperative for older adults, it can be difficult to know where to begin. With a degree in Exercise Science from Grand Valley State University, Dani Niewenhuis, our Fitness Coordinator at Waterford Place, has some helpful tips on the specific areas of exercise that seniors should focus on.


Aerobic Exercise

Aerobic exercise is important for maintaining heart health by increasing your heart rate and maximizing the amount of oxygen in your blood.

Some of the best aerobic exercises for seniors include:

  1. Walking – Dani Tip: Just start! You don’t have to walk for long, just start. For those who have trouble walking on land, a good alternative is walking in the pool. 
  2. Biking

Strength Exercise

Use it or lose it – this phrase often becomes a reality for muscle mass as we age. Studies have even shown that about 30% of adults over the age of 70 have trouble with walking, getting up out of a chair, or climbing stairs. And the big culprit for losing these physical abilities as we grow older is the loss of muscle mass.

Some of the best strength exercises for seniors include:

  1. Squats
  2. Wall pushups
  3. Stationary lunges 

Dani Tip: A pulley machine (cable machine) is a great piece of equipment! It can be used for lots of different exercises, standing or sitting, and uses your entire body.


Balance Exercise

Having good balance is an important way to prevent falls and serious injuries as we age. Exercises to improve balance can be split into two categories – static & dynamic. Static balance is our ability to hold our body in a specific position or posture while dynamic is our ability to maintain balance while moving our body. While static balance is important, seniors should really focus on exercises for dynamic balance.

Some of the best balance exercises for seniors include:

  1. Tightrope walk (heel toe walk)
  2. Sidestep
  3. Grapevine

And Dani has a little advice for those who are working to build an exercise routine. Start with something achievable. And don’t be intimidated! As you continue through your exercise journey, you’ll get to know your body and be more comfortable trying new things.”

Residents throughout Sunset Senior Communities enjoy active senior living with a variety of exercise options. From pool and fitness centers offering scheduled classes to outdoor spaces perfect for tranquil walks, there is truly something for everyone. Have questions about our communities and services? We’d love to answer your questions and show you around. Call us at 616.457.2770 or send us a message online.