Physical fitness poses benefits for everyone, but especially for seniors.
But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, aging adults need more physical activity than younger people and despite the physical, mental and emotional benefits, 31 million adults age 50 and older are inactive, the CDC reported.
Jamie Berns, owner of Senior Solutions in Beachwood; April Suva-Surovi, business development specialist and education at Arden Courts of Westlake; and Melissa Winberry, assistant director at the Rose Centers for Aging Well in Cleveland, said seniors should still make a point to stay physically active.
“Seniors should stay physically active as they age to maintain a healthy lifestyle that allows them to live independently for as long as possible with many other health factors, including the fact that exercise changes the brain in ways that protect memory and thinking skills,” Suva-Surovi said.
Physical fitness can also have a direct impact on other facets of life, including improved mood and sleep. It can also reduce stress and anxiety, Suva-Surovi added.
Seniors have options when it comes to fitness.
“They can become members of their senior center or local gyms and participate in their senior activity programs,” Suva-Surovi said. “At Arden Courts Memory Care Assisted Living, it is important that our residents maintain an active lifestyle for as long as they possibly can. We utilize all parts of our residents’ living area to promote physical activity like the interior walking space, outdoor courtyard with a quarter-mile walking path and daily exercise programs in our community center.”
At Rose Centers, Winberry said each of the seven sites has different offerings each day.
“Some examples are tai-chi, chair yoga and weights classes,” she said. “One of our locations has a pool, so we can do water aerobics classes. We also have walking clubs too.”
As Berns works with people in their homes, Senior Solutions tries to find activities there. In addition to having a personal trainer available to work with clients, Berns said brain games are an important addition.
“I encourage all of my clients to keep their brains active, and not to just sit and do whatever,” she explained. “You still need to stimulate the person and keep their minds and bodies active. My happiest clients are the most active ones.”
When it comes to fitness, Berns said it’s important to keep a steady routine, especially since it may be difficult for aging adults to break trends.
“If seniors have a routine that they do and find is effective, it doesn’t matter as much to them as long as they’re doing something, and it is fun for them,” she noted. “If you do that every day, it’s better to do that than nothing at all. So, differentiation may not be important to them.”
Winberry said though keeping a routine is good, it is good to switch it up now and then.
“Doing something a little bit different every week or so is good for a few reasons,” she said. “You could develop muscle memory, so if you’re doing the same thing, your body gets used to it. By switching it up, it keeps you on your toes. It’s good for your mental health as well when you do different things in different ways.”
Families have a role in keeping their aging loved ones active.
“Everyone needs a village of support, especially as you get older,” Winberry said. “It gets harder to be motivated and get out, especially if you’re having a day where you’re more sore than normal. It’s great to have someone around to call you, and encourage you to get out and be active.”
Suva-Surovi said, “Stay positive with your loved one. If your loved one lives independently, offer to drive them and attend the activities with them.”
No matter what the activity is, having a family member also participate is beneficial.
“Families are the best medicine,” she noted. “If a child is doing something with their parent, it can be very motivating. Older adults just want to do something with their loved one, so if they are spending time doing some sort of activity with them, it’s fun as well as physically beneficial.”