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The Sport Digest - ISSN: 1558-6448

Should Seniors Slow Down in Their Golden Years?

Society has always espoused the idea of slowing down in their golden years. Perhaps this concept evolved as a reward for the previous years of hard labor. Perhaps it evolved from the notion that the aging process leads to physical frailty. Slow down? Maybe a little to enjoy life. But, when it comes to exercise, seniors should certainly not slow down to a stop. Physical activity may be the closest thing to a panacea for the aging process. There is a myriad of benefits for seniors to reap from a regular program of exercise, ranging from the physiological to the psychological realms.

Physiologically, exercise improves cardiovascular function and decreases the risk of coronary artery disease. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, can also be improved through regular physical activity. Exercise can also reduce obesity and related medical conditions, such as the incidence of Type II diabetes mellitus. For seniors who have already been diagnosed with diabetes, regular exercise can improve insulin sensitivity and glycemic control. What about those dangerous falls and the risk of fractures, particularly of the hip and vertebral column? Exercise has actually been shown to decrease the risk of falling. Exercise, especially weight-bearing exercise or resistance training, can decrease the rate of bone density loss to reduce the risk of fractures. The associated increase in muscular strength and endurance can also help seniors to maintain their mobility. Seniors who suffer from osteoarthritis can improve joint function and decrease their pain through exercise. Participation in a regular exercise program can potentially decrease the risk of certain cancers, including colon, breast, prostate, and rectal cancers.

Exercise has also been shown to improve cognitive function and short-term memory in seniors. It also improves the quality of their sleep so that they can remain more alert throughout the day. Physical activity also alters the biochemistry of the central nervous system in a way that decreases depression. Exercise can lead to an improved quality of sociological life, as well. Group exercise programs can provide important social contact opportunities. Increases in strength can help seniors maintain their mobility, which will enable them to enjoy independent living arrangements. The improvement of cognitive function and short-term memory will also allow them to remain independent and to have social relationships that are more meaningful and rewarding. These exercise benefits can also reduce the frequency and duration of hospitalization. When a physically fit senior is discharged from a hospital stay, he or she is more likely to be discharged to an independent or assisted living situation rather than a nursing home. When seniors are able to live independently, the social and financial burden on relatives and society is greatly reduced.

Slow down in the golden years? Maybe a little to enjoy life. But, when it comes to exercise, seniors should keep on moving!