The Importance of Exercise for Your Mental Health and Independent Living
The world’s older population is significantly increasing. According to a report published by the National Institutes of Health, the world’s older population will grow by almost 17 percent by the year 2050. This has serious implications for worldwide health and financial concerns as people continue living longer but do not maintain an active and health-focused lifestyle. As a result of a sedentary lifestyle, the older population increases their risk for injury and disease while losing their independence.
Exercise might be the key to maintaining strong physical and mental health while being able to continue living an independent lifestyle.
Benefits of Exercise
Exercise can vastly improve your overall longevity with a focus on mental health, which is one of the primary concerns for the growing older population. Before jumping into exercise, mental health, and independent living, let’s review other ways that exercise can improve your life.
Weight Management: Exercise helps to expend excess calories, burn fat, and promote a healthy weight. A sedentary lifestyle is one of the leading causes of obesity, which can then lead to other diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
Strong Bones: Weak bones and a loss of core strength contribute to injury in advanced age. Exercise has been shown to promote stronger bones and better coordination.
Reduced Risk of Injury: Exercise can reduce your risk for age-related injury by improving balance, increasing strength and lean muscle mass, and supporting your neuromuscular system.
Exercise, Mental Health, and Independence
A study published in Population Health Management followed two groups of elderly subjects for three years. One group continued their normal sedentary lives while the other group participated in the SilverSneakers fitness program. The SilverSneaker program is an included benefit for those on Medicare, providing access to fitness centers, group fitness classes, and exercise support. Researchers wanted to see the impact of exercise on physical and mental health as well as daily activities.
At the conclusion of the study, it was confirmed that those participating in the program saw significant improvements in physical health, emotional wellbeing, and mental faculties. Those who did not take advantage of the SilverSneakers program reported poorer health and decreased functioning.
Most importantly, those who made an effort to incorporate exercise into their daily activities were able to maintain an independent lifestyle with a lower risk of injury. (2)
Get Fit at Home
If you’re not eligible or prepared to take part in the SilverSneakers program, there are plenty of ways to increase physical activity at home.
Be More Active: To reap the benefits of exercise, the idea is to simply start being more physically active. This can include going on more walks, parking your car further away from the store, using the stairs, and doing chores that are physically demanding such as gardening.
Work Out: You can also work out at home by using simple household items such as water bottles, chairs, and a broom. Learn more about everyday household items to help you train.
Rest Smart: Whether you start walking more or you increase your workout routine, be sure to incorporate well-timed rest breaks. Studies show that increasing your rest time in between exercises can improve your fitness results.
Do you exercise daily to improve your health?
What benefits have you noticed since starting with an exercise program? Have you increased your physical activity level? What do you each day to support your health and weight management?
David Sautter is a NASM certified personal trainer and a NASM certified fitness nutrition specialist who has worked in the fitness industry for over 12 years.
During his time in the fitness industry, David Sautter has conducted many fitness workshops, trained hundreds of clients, and has written extensively for a variety of companies. He has been a featured fitness writer on many high-profile health and fitness websites. Aside from producing weekly articles, David has been the writer of several e-books and training guides.
Read more blogs from David Sautter
1. He, Wan & Goodkind, Daniel & Kowal, Paul. (2016). An Aging World: 2015. 10.13140/RG.2.1.1088.9362.
2. Hamar B, Coberley CR, Pope JE, Rula EY. Impact of a Senior Fitness Program on Measures of Physical and Emotional Health and Functioning. Population Health Management. 2013;16(6):364-372. doi:10.1089/pop.2012.0111.