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Effects of Exercising on Seniors

Updated on June 19, 2013
Running, walking, bicycling and more are exercises that many seniors still enjoy.
Running, walking, bicycling and more are exercises that many seniors still enjoy. | Source
Dancing is both a social and physical activity that older adults can enjoy.
Dancing is both a social and physical activity that older adults can enjoy. | Source

Exercise Benefits for Body, Brain and Mind

The Benefits of Exercise for Seniors

If you could:

  • Strengthen your bones
  • Maintain and/or build muscle tone
  • Keep your heart muscle healthy
  • Prevent unsteadiness
  • Increase flexibility
  • Slow loss of thinking skills
  • Lower cholesterol
  • Lose and/or maintain weight
  • Decrease blood pressure
  • Stave off chronic illnesses such as diabetes, stroke and cardiovascular disease

These are just some of the benefits to be had when regular physical activity -- exercise -- is part of your daily life. In addition to these physical benefits, exercise has been proven to improve mood and feelings of well-being.

Some exercise and physical activity is team-oriented or done in groups which provides a social outlet for seniors.

No one has to be left out from reaping the benefits of exercise. People confined to wheelchairs or are unable to stand for long periods of time can participate from the wheelchair or a chair. No one is too young or too old to begin, or to continue, to be fit.

Senior Olympics/National Senior Games Association

Lots of baby boomers and seniors have been physically active all their lives. Some people in these age groups began physical fitness, sports, or exercise in mid-life and some baby boomers and seniors are interested in becoming physically active and fit now.

The National Senior Games Association has something to offer anyone of any fitness level age 50 and older. It is the NSGA that offers the state national Senior Olympics each year. The organization also offers education, fitness tips and programs and nutrition information.

Debunking the Myths About Seniors and Exercise

* Why exercise? I'm going to get old anyway. It's true that you are going to age, but you can do so with a better quality of life if you're able to prevent or actively treat chronic conditions like arthritis, heart failure, diabetes and heart disease. Regular exercise decreases your risk for dementia, colon cancer and Alzheimer's disease.

* Old people should rest and save their strength. The fact is, a sedentary lifestyle robs your body of strength, from loss of muscle tone to weakening of the bones. Regular physical activity strengthens and improves bone density and muscles. Exercise can also aid in preventing or reducing problems with being able to go to sleep at night or to stay asleep.

* Exercise puts old people at risk for falling. Exercise actually improves strength, flexibility, stability and balance, reducing the risk of falls.

* I'm too old to start exercising. You're never too old to be physically active. It's true you shouldn't start out by running a marathon, but walking short distances and increasing the distance slowly is one way to begin. Talk to your health care provider to learn what options are best for your individual condition.

* I'm disabled. How can I exercise if I can't even stand alone? There are a wide variety of chair exercises in many exercise disciplines including strength training and tai chi. Upper body strength is important to maintain whether you are in a wheelchair or use a mobility appliance such as a cane or walker.

Adapted from; Senior Exercise and Fitness Tips.

Chair Exercise Video for Seniors

Walking is a beneficial exercise for mind and body. It's even more fun when done with friends.
Walking is a beneficial exercise for mind and body. It's even more fun when done with friends. | Source

The Science Behind Exercise's Effects on Seniors

There has been much research devoted to understanding the effects of exercise and physical activity in recent decades in the aging and senior members of the population. Some of the research has been spurred by the overweight and obesity epidemic in the United States and other Westernized cultures; some of it has been to develop improved prevention and treatment of the effects of aging on the body and chronic illnesses.

A review of all recent research into the effects of exercising on seniors would be a mini-sage. Instead, here's snippets of a variety of such studies and their conclusions:

* European Journal of Heart Failure; 2000: Study participants with a mean age of 81 plus or minus four years with chronic heart failure participated in a once-week exercise session tailored to their abilities for a 15-week period. The conclusion was that elderly patients with chronic heart failure could benefit from a appropriately designed exercise program.

* Cochrane database of systematic reviews; July 6, 2011: This study sought to determine what, if any, relationship existed between exercise and bone loss in postmenopausal women. The conclusion reached was that exercise resulted in a statistically insignificant -- but possibly important -- effect on bone density.

* Mayo Clinic Proceedings; Sept. 2011: The Mayo Clinic reviewed previously published studies about the effect of exercise as a preventive or disease-modifying treatment of dementia and brain aging. After examining studies that showed improvements in cognitive scores and gray matter volume determined by imaging, Mayo Clinic concluded that exercise should not be overlooked as an important therapeutic strategy.

* International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine; 2011: Exercise was evaluated for the treatment of depression and anxiety. It was found that exercise compares well with the use of anti-depressant medications as a first-line treatment for mild to moderate depression and also works well when used along with medication. Exercise has also been found to be effective in reducing anxiety, although not to the same level as anti-anxiety medications.


This hub is informational in nature and not meant as a substitute or replacement of the advice of a health care provider. Always discuss any new activity or program with your health care provider before making any changes.


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    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 4 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      my dad is in his 70's and had began jogging as early as 6.30am around 5 years ago. He looks strong, fir and healthy before my mom had stroke and made him stressful, hectic and tired....

    • Gypsy48 profile image

      Gypsy48 5 years ago

      Interesting and useful information. Staying active is so important as we age. Walking is my favorite exercise of choice.

    • profile image

      Vickiw 5 years ago

      So pleased you wrote this. Exercise is so important, and it doesn't have to be strenuous exercise.

    • L.L. Woodard profile image

      L.L. Woodard 5 years ago from Oklahoma City

      Peachpurple, your Dad is an inspiration. Quitting smoking and becoming more physically active; those are two big steps toward better health and just feeling better in general.

      Thank you for your comments and voting.

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 5 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      my dad is in his 70s and he exercises everyday from 5.30am in the morning for an hour. He started his regime since he stopped smoking 5 years ago. Exercise makes him looks fit and strong and younger too. Old people should exercise but only the easy ones. Love to read your hub about the myths. Voted interesting