Importance of Exercise for Older Adults


As we age, our bodies undergo many different physical changes. Some older adults might experience increased joint pain and decreased flexibility. However, participating in daily exercises can actually improve mobility and decrease the chances of developing a number of physical and mental health conditions. For those who have experienced a loss of physical capability, exercise can be intimidating and knowing where to begin might seem nearly impossible. But, exercise doesn’t have to be that complicated. In fact, the World Health Organization recommends older adults get at least 150 minutes of exercise each week, which comes down to just 20 minutes a day. While exercise might seem daunting, inactivity poses risks that can jeopardize a person’s overall well-being.

Inactivity in Older Adults

While some older adults report loss of strength and stamina as they age, much of it can be contributed to reduced physical activity. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, by the age of 75 one in three men and one in two women engage in no physical activity at all. As we age, our muscle mass begins to decrease, and by the time we reach our forties, we can experience a loss between 3-5%, which increase with each decade. However, engaging in physical activity can decrease the risk of age-related muscle loss. Inactivity, on the other hand, can have lasting negative effects on one’s health and quality of life.

Inactive adults, which includes those who participant in less than ten minutes of moderate or vigorous physical activity a day, are at risk of developing a number of health concerns. Researchers suggest that inactivity that health problems such as cardiovascular disease, prostate cancer, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and dementia are all linked to inactivity in older adults. These diseases increase the risk of premature aging and reduce the chances of staying independent longer. In addition, lack of physical activity can lead to feelings of anxiety, depression, and loneliness. Most of these age-related health concerns can be prevented or managed by consisted physical activity.

Health Benefits of Physical Activity

While older adults are more at risk for some age-related diseases and illnesses, there are ways to prevent them. In fact, according to a journal published in the National Library of Medicine, “improvements in mental health, emotional, psychological, social well-being, and cognitive function are also associated with regular physical activity.” Those who participate in daily exercise are more likely to experience its many health benefits which include:

  • Increased immune function– Strong bodies have been proven to fight off illness and disease more quickly. When we exercise, our bodies become stronger, and are able to recover more easily when we get sick.
  • Improved respiratory and cardiovascular function- Consistent exercise strengthens our cardiovascular system and improves lung function, which can protect us from heart disease and high blood pressure.
  • Reduced risk of falling- According to the National Council on Aging, falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for older adults. While falls can’t be completed prevented, exercises that focus on balance and mobility have proven to lower the risk of falling and help improve the recovery time in the event of a fall-related injury. 
  • Improved quality of life- Older adults are more at risk of loneliness and depression, especially when they live alone. However, consistent exercise has proven to decrease the symptoms of depression and also promote an environment of socialization, especially when one participates in group exercise classes.
  • Ability to stay independent longer- Studies have shown that those who exercise reduce their risk of functional limitation by 30-50%. Those who are able to physically care for themselves are more likely to stay independent for longer periods of time without relying on the help of a caregiver.

Staying Active at Maple Knoll Village

There are a number of fun ways to exercise and stay active each day. Swimming, yoga, weight lifting and resistance training all work to strengthen muscles and keep you healthy. Here are a few ideas to get your started.

Staying active is possible no matter your interest or ability level. Our Hemsworth Wellness Center offers a variety of activities to keep residents both physically and mentally active. Outdoor walks throughout the campus, both at the beginner and advanced levels, are offered daily. Our newly minted Arboretum Path is open to residents and is a perfect opportunity to enjoy a scenic stroll throughout the campus.

Our campus pool is available for free swim and also offers water aerobics classes throughout the week. If you are a resident, make sure to check the resident app for the Wellness Center schedule and for access to guided exercises. If you’re interested in hearing more about our offerings or to schedule a tour, please contact John at 513-782-2715