By Jolie Glassman
Each of us has been taught the importance of exercise from an early age. After all, physical activity is not only necessary for healthy living, but making it part of a consistent routine can provide immense benefit to our physical and mental health. There are countless studies that can prove the benefits of consistent exercise across all age brackets and health groups, and those benefits – as well as the exercise itself – become all the more important as our bodies age.
In this article, I want to highlight the top five reasons why exercise is essential, but especially as the years tick by and we continue aging.
1. Exercise Better Prevents Disease
When doctors say “exercise is good for you,” it’s not without reason. Physical activity improves our body’s overall immune function, allowing our immune system to better defend against diseases that could threaten our health.
Studies have also shown that routine exercise can also play a role in preventing the onset of some health conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease. With these two diseases in particular routinely being amongst the most deadly in the U.S., it’s no surprise that doctors recommend even elderly patients to exercise every day in order to prevent their adverse effects from becoming more prevalent.
2. Exercise Improves Mental Health
You may be familiar with the term “runners’ high”. This refers to the feeling of pseudo-euphoria felt by runners at the peak of their cardiovascular exercise, a feeling which is created by the release of endorphins (or, the “feel good” or “reward” hormone) into the bloodstream.
But running is far from the only form of exercise which releases endorphins. In fact, any exercise which tests the limits of our physical bodies can release endorphins. This is because, due to the physical stress exercise puts on our bodies, pushing through that stress allows our body’s innate chemistry to “reward” us once the stress is over by releasing endorphins, improving our mood and mental cognition in a similar way that eating after a period of fasting or drinking a cold bottle of water after performing yard work in the summer sun may have.
3. Exercise Increases Social Engagement
As we age, an unfortunate reality of life begins to slowly set in: our own mortality. This realization can also bring with it deep feelings of loneliness and depression, which is another reason why exercising as part of a group can help mitigate both of these factors. Joining a group of like-minded individuals who enjoy participating in some of the same activities you do can not only improve your physical health, but also your mental health due to the social interactions these groups present. It can also help renew a sense of purpose in life from the new friendships and relationships we build as part of an active exercise community or group.
Not every exercise has to be done solo. In fact, as we age, less physical activity should be conducted alone to prevent the risk of bodily injury.
4. Exercise Decreases Risk of Physical Injury
Older adults are at a naturally higher risk of physical injury. One of the most common physical injuries aged adults can suffer is a fall, as this can quickly ignite other health-related issues and severely impact bodily independence.
Adhering to a routine of physical activity helps to build stronger muscles, bones, and joints. It also improves flexibility and mobility, which simultaneously strengthens our physical balance and coordination, making the risk of falls or other injuries far less likely.
5. Exercise Improves Physical Independence and Autonomy
Though briefly covered in the point before this, a fall or physical injury such as a broken bone (and the body’s ability to heal and recover from these) inherently becomes much more severe as we age. Imagine a hockey-stick shaped graph where the x-axis represents your age and the y-axis represents the severity of impact a basic injury may have on the body.
For older adults and senior citizens, an injury that may not affect someone in their teens or twenties could prove life-altering for them. By maintaining an exercise regimen and sticking to it, however, you can improve your body’s physical constitution while also mitigating the impact an injury like this may have as you age. While many have no choice in the matter, no one wants to be confined to a chair or bed for the remainder of their life. By exercising regularly as you age, you can better protect yourself and your own physical independence and autonomy.
Jolie Glassman has been the owner and operator of South Beach Boxing since 1998. Her goal is to make everyone she comes in contact with — through both friendships and working relationships — feel better about themselves and more confident about their lives. Jolie lives to impact and transform the lives of others through fitness, specifically boxing fitness. Spend a few minutes with Jolie and you undoubtedly will be swept up in her passion and infectious energy to be better and feel good about yourself.