5 benefits of exercise for the over 50s
Keep fit, workout, walk more! Do you ever feel that you are under pressure to do more exercise? From not having the time or the inclination, are you always making excuses not to?
As you get older it is important to keep healthy. Whether you are someone who has done a bit of fitness over the years to someone who has never tried it, when you get to 50 and over the benefits of exercise are huge.
Here we look at 5 benefits of exercise when you are over 50.
1. It can reduce your risk of illness
Regular exercise is shown to reduce the risk of certain age-related illnesses and so increase life expectancy. These include heart disease; osteoporosis; stroke; type 2 diabetes and some cancers.
It does this as exercise acts on the body and triggers physiological responses, these include changes in inflammation and endorphin release.
What do we mean when we say regular exercise? At least 2 ½ hrs a week of moderate aerobic activity according to the NHS for people up to the age of 64. This could be walking; cycling; tennis or even gardening.
For older adults try some light activity that does not involve sitting down, so moving around the house; slower walking and doing some easy household tasks.
2. Improves your social life
Although much of life recently has been over the phone or Zoom, exercise as part of a group increases your social engagement. From a walking group to a yoga class online being part of a fitness class can ease feelings of loneliness and depression.
A group class is a great way to make new friends or just to see some different faces every week and share a common interest.
3. Helps your cognitive function
As exercise helps with physical health, so it has an impact on your brain health. It can improve your memory both long and short term as well as your thinking skills.
How does this happen? The part of your brain that responds strongly to exercise is the hippocampus. This brain structure which is the core of your brains memory and learning systems grows with regular exercise.
This is demonstrated by a famous study which compared the brains of two mice, the first had access to a running wheel and the second did not. The mice with the wheel produced many more new neurons in their hippocampus than the second group and performed far better at memory- related tasks.
4. Reduces falls
When you get older falls do unfortunately become more common. There are exercises which can help to reduce these. If you include muscle strengthening exercises into your routine twice a week, they will in turn improve your balance, co-ordination and posture.
These exercises can be gentle squats or modified push-ups to ones using a stability ball such as a chest fly or overhead shoulder press. Always check with your GP if you are unsure as to which exercises are best suited to you.
5. Supports better mental health
Mild to moderate depression, anxiety and stress are reduced with exercise. As well as this keeping to a regular fitness plan helps with your wellbeing, sleep patterns and feelings of positivity.
The impact on your mental health of exercise is down to the changes in the brain it produces. Neural growth, inflammation reduction and the release of endorphins are what you have to thank for those feelings of calmness, energy and positivity.
Exercise is also a welcome distraction when you are feeling low or have lots on your mind.
Don’t worry if you have never done much exercise, it is never too late to give it a try! The benefits to your physical and mental health of regular exercise are huge. Make a start today to minimise your time sitting down, get up and get moving and you won’t look back.