Five Exercise Myths That Seniors Need to Discard

As a senior citizen, you likely want to live in your own home for as long as possible. What could get in the way of fulfilling your wish? In most cases, it’s losing your ability to move with ease and the strength to perform chores for yourself. In addition, you might suffer from mild cognitive impairment (MCI), which reduces your ability to reason and make decisions. This condition can progress to dementia.

Surveys show that after age 55, people lose substantial muscle strength and flexibility. Such loss eventually leads to an inability to walk and carry out tasks for yourself, and thus loss of independence. However, this is not inevitable. It only happens when you are physically inactive. You can mitigate it through exercise.

As for MCI, scientists are not certain of its causes. However, evidence suggests that reduced flow of blood to the brain may lead to loss of vitality, whereby the brain does not perform at its optimum. So, how do you get the blood flowing to your brain? Through aerobic exercise. In a study, researchers from the University of Texas Southwestern (UTSW) put elderly people with mild memory loss on an exercise regime. After a year, blood flow to the seniors’ brains increased. The March 2021 issue of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease published the results of the study.

So, as a senior citizen, what’s holding you back from working out? Do you believe you are too old, too sick, or too out of shape to exercise? Do you believe in any of the following five myths?

Myth 1: Exercise isn’t safe at my age

Are you afraid of falling and breaking a bone? In fact, exercise strengthens your bones and improves your balance. Weight-bearing exercises like walking, jogging, hiking, weight training, and dancing strengthen your bones. Exercises like heel-to-toe walking, one-leg stands, tai chi, and step-ups help maintain your balance.

Being inactive does not protect you from falls and fractures. In fact, inactivity is harmful to your health. However, according to the National Institute on Aging, if you have osteoporosis, you should avoid exercises that involve bending forward from the waist or twisting your spine.

Myth 2: I can’t afford gym membership and gyms are for the young, anyway 

Gym membership can be high. However, there are many online exercise classes you can take instead, some geared to seniors. You can buy inexpensive weights or use soup cans, water bottles, milk jugs filled with sand, or anything else available in your house.

But if you prefer a gym, don’t be intimidated by all the latest gadgets. Many people of all ages are unfamiliar with gym equipment, and trainers usually go out of their way to help. It is best to avoid the high traffic times in the early morning and after work. Go to the gym during low traffic times. During such periods, trainers have more time in their hands and can give you individual attention.

Myth 3: Exercise only benefits my heart

Exercise is good for your overall well-being. When you’re active, you slow down your physical decline. Apart from benefiting your heart, being physically active helps in managing many health issues including stroke risk, kidney disease, and diabetes. Exercise lifts your mood and eases stress and depression.

Exercise is gaining recognition to such an extent that the World Health Organization (WHO) has revised its previous recommendation of 150 minutes per week for adults, to 300 minutes, and this recommendation covers seniors, too.

Myth 4: Walking is the only exercise I need

Walking is very good exercise. However, it’s not enough. You need to engage in a regime that employs the four basics of fitness – cardiovascular conditioning, strength training, balance, and flexibility.

Walking, dancing, swimming, and other aerobics-type activities help in cardiovascular conditioning while lifting weights strengthens muscles. For balance, engage in exercises like the one-leg stand and heel-to-toe walk. To increase flexibility, stretch after your aerobics and weight-lifting activities. However, only stretch when your muscles are warm.

Don’t limit yourself strictly to exercise. Gardening and household chores are all good for you. Incorporate movement into your everyday activities. For example, pace the room while speaking on the phone, or lift weights as you watch television. And don’t sit for too long. Get up every hour or so and move about.

Myth 5: Reading is the best brain exercise

Reading, listening to music or playing a musical instrument, and solving puzzles all stimulate the brain. However, physical activity also ranks high for maintaining brain health.

According to the Alzheimer’s Research & Prevention Foundation, when you are physically active, you reduce by 50 percent the chances of developing dementias and Alzheimer’s disease.

Final thoughts

To remain in control of your life and retain your independence, you need to be physically agile and able to accomplish tasks for yourself. You also need to retain your reasoning and decision-making ability. Exercise plays a major role in making this possible. So, stay physically active even as you engage your brain and remain socially connected.

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