Physical fitness is important as you age, improving strength, flexibility and balance. Research shows that your morning stretch, daily walk or weekly fitness class is doing more than just helping your body feel its best; it’s supporting your brain health, too.
Staying physically active can help older adults maintain – and even improve – mental function, while lowering the risk of developing chronic illness. According to the Alzheimer’s Society, regular exercise can reduce a person’s risk of developing dementia by approximately 30%, and for Alzheimer’s specifically, that risk can be reduced by 45%.
In addition to risk reduction, exercise can be beneficial for seniors who are currently experiencing cognitive issues. Physical activity is a common part of treatment plans for people with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease and can help dementia patients manage and potentially reduce symptoms.
One exercise program with something for every ability is SilverSneakers, a fitness program available at no cost to Medicare Advantage members in participating health plans to stay physically active, socially engaged and mentally sharp. The program has been serving people aged 65 and older for more than 30 years.
It is never too late to start exercising
Even if you start a workout routine later in life, the benefits to your brain and body are abundant. Talk with your doctor about beginning physical fitness and consider options of interest that are available to you. Exercising with friends or joining a fitness class designed for older adults can help you feel comfortable while trying something new.
Sims Corbett is a SilverSneakers instructor who is passionate about senior fitness. One of her favorite things about her job is helping older adults discover a passion for exercise and physical activity, even if they’ve never set foot in a gym before.
“Members have access to thousands of gyms, in-person and virtual classes, and platforms designed to foster social interaction and mental well-being, which becomes even more important with age. As an instructor, I see how regular exercise can benefit everyone, at every age,” said Corbett.
SilverSneakers offers our members access to more than 22,000 participating locations with 100+ weekly live virtual classes and 45,000 virtual programs focusing on balance, fall prevention, strength, flexibility, cardiovascular health and much more.
Medicare Annual Enrollment Period is underway through Dec. 7 so now is a perfect time for seniors to choose a plan that offers benefits like fitness. For more information and to check eligibility, visit getsilversneakers.com.
Senior workout inspiration
If you want to start exercising, Corbett recommends choosing activities you will enjoy. “Fitness should be fun. I encourage seniors to take a moment to think about what they have enjoyed doing in the past and what has piqued their interest over the years. Did you take dance classes growing up? Love to swim? Have you always been curious about yoga? We’re all more likely to continue doing something that we enjoy.”
Some SilverSneakers classes that are good for the body and mind include aerobic classes like Cardio Interval, Walk Strong and Line Dancing. These classes can help patients manage and reduce symptoms related to cognitive functioning.
When you start, you might decide to exercise with a partner or in a group, which can add a fun social element while keeping each other accountable. However, this is not essential, and even if you exercise alone at home as your schedule allows, you’ll reap many benefits.
While fitness classes are great for guided exercise and making new friends, remember that activities like walking, biking or even household chores like gardening, vacuuming or playing with the dog are all good options for moving the body. All movement – even standing more – can be beneficial for physical and mental wellness.