1. Loss of health.
2. Inability to care for self.
3. Loss of mental abilities.
4. Lack of money.
5. Inability to get good health coverage.
6. Inability to drive.
7. Becoming a family burden.
8. Ending life in a nursing home.
9. Inability to work or give to the community
10. Being alone.
Every year these concerns grow, paralleling the growing number of seniors in America. The U.S. Census Bureau predicts that by 2050 twenty percent of the American population will consist of seniors, a 7% increase over 2007.
In an ideal world we could extend life in its most fulfilling form much, much longer; unfortunately we have yet to discover a Fountain of Youth that will keep us in our primes forever. However, researchers have discovered the next best thing; exercise.
Interestingly, regular exercise in seniors has been shown to directly, and indirectly address almost every single concern on the above list. Unfortunately, according to WebMD.com only one in four people between the ages of 65 and 74 exercise regularly.
Dr. Chhanda Dutta, PhD and chief of the Clinical Gerontology Branch at the National Institute on Aging is quoted on WebMD.com saying, “Exercise is almost like a silver bullet for lots of health problems. For many people exercise can do as much if not more good than the 5 to 10 medications they take everyday.”
Exercise is understood to strengthen the body, improve balance and fight against degenerative diseases such as osteoporosis, arthritis, diabetes and heart disease. Being stronger longer enables many seniors to stay in their own homes, living independently, safely for longer. Likewise, exercise helps stave off dementia and has been shown to boost the memory – all key aspects to independent living, driving and working and volunteering within the community.
Increased serotonin levels in the brain during exercise improve mood and fight depression. According to the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society in 2010, roughly 25% of American seniors suffer from depression and 20% of all suicides are committed by those 65 and older. Mild exercise, such as 20 minutes of walking is enough to boost serotonin levels and improve physical health significantly, not to mention improving happiness and decreasing feelings of loneliness. Exercise is also a great time to socialize, make friends and extend connections within the community.
Most recently in a piece published in Sciencedaily.com on May 14th, 2013, titled, “Cardio and Weight Training Reduces Access to Health Care in Seniors” researchers reported on a study performed at the University of British Columbia and Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute that found patients aged 70-80 suffering from mild dementia who participated in aerobic activity or weight lifting had fewer visits to doctors and improved their cognitive function significantly over those who did not exercise or who did low impact exercise. The primary finding of the study was that seniors who exercise spend less money cumulatively on health care. For seniors concerned about money or health care expenses, exercise makes sense not just for their physical and mental wellbeing, but for their financial wellbeing as well.
Until we find the long sought after Fountain of Youth, exercise is the next best thing. Come on down to the Aspen Club and Spa for group exercise class, a meeting with a personal trainer or simply for a walk or ride on the machines. Take the first step toward being healthier, wealthier and wiser you for the rest of your life.