February is American Heart Health awareness month! To celebrate, we’re taking the opportunity to highlight the importance of fitness and physical activity for seniors. Regular exercise can help not only with cardiovascular health for seniors, but offers a wide range of other physical, social, and cognitive benefits. Read on to learn five of the top benefits of senior fitness.
1. Improved heart health
Heart health is extremely important for people of all ages, especially when you consider that 805,000 Americans have a heart attack every year. Seniors are especially susceptible to heart conditions and are less likely to make a full recovery after a heart attack. Taking a few minutes to be active every day can make major improvements to long-term health and quality of life.
It makes sense that adding a little bit of cardio into a senior’s routine helps with cardiovascular health. Regular movement and activity—including gentler exercises such as walking, yoga, or even gardening—can dramatically reduce the risk of heart disease for seniors. A recent study of adults aged 60-64 found that sedentary seniors carry higher levels of heart disease risk factors, such as inflammation, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure when compared to both highly active seniors (participating in running, jogging, and dancing) and moderately active seniors (participating in gentler exercise).
2. Improved bone and joint health
Bone loss and joint stiffness can cause ongoing discomfort, weakness, and pain for many seniors. Post-menopausal seniors are at especially high risk for bone loss, and can lose as much as 2% bone mass every year. Even those not suffering from osteoporosis or bone loss might suffer from joint stiffness or pain related to arthritis or other conditions—an estimated 54.4 million U.S. adults are diagnosed every year with some form of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, lupus, or fibromyalgia.
Both the Mayo Clinic and the National Institutes of Health recommend low impact strength training and range of motion exercise to improve joint health, reduce stiffness, and maintain bone density.
3. Decreased fall risk
Falls are extremely common and highly dangerous for seniors. One in four seniors experiences a serious fall every year. Falls result in more than 2.8 million emergency injuries annually, leading to more than 800,000 hospitalizations and more than 27,000 deaths. For this reason, many senior fitness programs focus specifically on gentle, motion-focused exercises such as yoga and tai chi that help with overall strength and balance.
In combination with effective fall management programs, senior fitness programs are a critical aspect of fall prevention and reducing risks. At Aviva, we offer a highly comprehensive senior fitness program and have an alert system in every room as part of our fall prevention program.
4. Improved cognitive and emotional
In addition to the many physical benefits, an effective senior exercise program can help with cognitive and emotional health. Exercises requiring fine motor skills and repetitive motion can help with overall brain health, especially in seniors with memory care needs. Exercise helps the brain produce endorphins, which are neurochemicals produced in the pituitary gland and hypothalamus that serve as natural pain relievers and mood boosters. Exercise also promotes the production of dopamine and serotonin, neurotransmitters that are critical factors to promote general mental wellbeing and avoid depression and anxiety.
These neurotransmitters and endorphins are also critical in helping regulate sleep patterns, making it easier for seniors to fall asleep and get more restful sleep. All of these factors play into increased cognitive function for a longer period of time, reducing the risk of memory loss, and helping seniors with dementia and Alzheimer’s feel better rested and more at ease.
5. Connect with other seniors
As seniors age and have reduced mobility, they risk becoming isolated as they no longer have the same opportunities to get out of the house and make new friends. Individuals aren’t the only ones who benefit from senior fitness—these senior exercise programs provide a great opportunity to socialize and befriend other seniors with similar interests.
Group fitness classes, aquatic fitness and swimming, and walking groups all let seniors laugh, joke, and socialize while exercising. At Aviva, we offer a full calendar of group fitness activities and exercise classes in each of our living environments, giving senior residents the perfect opportunity to get to know their neighbors while getting active.
Finding the senior fitness program that’s right for your needs
If you’re considering a move to a senior living community for yourself or a loved one, it’s important to consider all of the amenities and programs that factor into quality of life. Many communities charge additional fees for gym memberships and fitness classes, despite how critical these programs are for long-term wellness. At Aviva, senior fitness is a key component of our overall approach to health and wellness, and these programs are included as part of the monthly rent. To enhance our sense of community, we offer senior fitness activities in our independent living, assisted living, and memory care residences, both in group settings and individual training sessions as needed.
If you would like to know more about Aviva’s health and wellness initiatives, don’t hesitate to get in touch!