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7 benefits of keeping active as you age

7 benefits of keeping active as you age

7 benefits of being active in later life - MAIN

Physical activity may be a little easier when you’re younger, but it becomes even more important as you age.

Whether it’s going for regular walks, being active around the house or garden, enjoying a swim or a class at your local leisure centre, or pursuing your favourite hobby or sport, movement brings a variety of advantages to help you age well.

Here are seven major benefits of keeping active for older adults...

1. Prevent disease

We naturally tend to worry more about our health as we start to get older, but the good news is that we can lower our risk of major illnesses such as cancer, coronary heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes by maintaining an active lifestyle.

Over the years you’ll probably have read countless news headlines about how particular foods or diet supplements can lower or increase your risk of certain conditions and, let’s be honest, it can all become a little confusing – in some cases with conflicting results from tests and surveys.

All experts agree, however, that physical activity is the real deal with strong scientific evidence supporting its ability to help you lead a healthier, happier life. This includes improving overall immune function, which becomes even more important as you age.

2. Improve your mental health

The goal isn’t simply to live a long life but a happy one too, and the mental health benefits of being physically active are well-established.

Being active causes your body to release feel good hormones that lift your mood and brighten your day, while going for a brisk walk or run, nailing new routines at a group exercise class, playing a sport, or putting in a shift in your garden or allotment can also give you focus, a sense of purpose, and leave you with a feeling of achievement.

3. Maintain independence

Most of us dislike the idea of becoming a burden in later life, and being physically active as we age helps us maintain our independence for longer so that we can continue to live our lives the way we want to, well into our golden years.

Being active and incorporating more movement into our everyday life helps keep our joints flexible and our muscles strong, maintaining mobility and, with it, greater independence. If you’ve got grandchildren or are likely to have them in the future, being active and mobile will help you enjoy those precious times together to the full.

4. Decrease your risk of falls

As we get older our balance naturally declines, leaving us at a higher risk of falls - and the potential effect of a fall only gets more serious as we age. Regular physical activity helps maintain and increase strength, flexibility, coordination and balance, keeping you on your feet.

If you really want to work on your balance, it’s a good idea to include in your routine exercises and workouts that strengthen your core (such as sit ups, planks, crunches, yoga or pilates) and promote better balance (like lunges, leg raises, squats or Tai Chi).

5. Social engagement

We can often lose touch with people as we age, but getting out and about and being active is a wonderful way to build and maintain social ties. It could be meeting up with an old friend for a walk and talk, or going to aqua aerobics together… whatever you do, it’s nice to be able to stay in contact and enjoy a shared interest.

Alternatively, you may be looking to increase your social circle – in which case joining a walking or running group, an exercise class or a social sports community will open the door to like-minded people with whom you’re likely to have a fair bit in common.

6. Better sleep

Sleep is important at every stage of life, allowing your body and mind to recover - but getting a good night’s sleep can become more difficult with age for a number of reasons. Physical activity and exercise, however, has been shown to help improve the quality of your sleep and reduce both the time it takes for you to fall asleep and the amount of time you lie awake in bed during the night.

Being active also elevates your core body temperature and helps you feel more awake, reducing daytime sleepiness and keeping your body clock ticking over at a good rhythm; helping you feel well rested in the morning and ready to tackle the challenges of everyday life.

7. Brain power

They say your brain is like a muscle, and just as physical activity keeps your muscles strong it also improves cognitive function - helping you think, learn and solve problems while also being good for memory.

According to the Alzheimer’s Society, several studies have shown that regular exercise can reduce your risk of developing dementia by around 30 per cent, while one particular study involving more than 2,000 men in Wales over a period of 35 years suggested regular exercise had the greatest effect in terms of reducing dementia risk, compared with smoking, alcohol intake, weight and diet.

Aerobic exercise has also been shown to improve the performance of healthy adults on thinking tests.

All in all, keeping active in later life is a no-brainer.

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Posted on Tuesday 5th December 2023

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