We are all aware of the importance of exercise. It’s important at any age. For seniors, a consistent exercise routine can mean the difference between independent living and needing a caregiver.

Exercise reduces insulin resistance, inflammation, and boosts the size of the hippocampus (that’s the area of the brain involved in memory and learning), thereby making it easier for the brain to think and memorize. This, and other information can be found in the latest Harvard study on seniors and exercise – and this isn’t even my favorite part of the research. Exercise improves mood, sleep, lessens anxiety and stress, increases volume in select brain regions, and lessens the onset of all kinds of chronic conditions – and this is still not my favorite part. The best part of the study is that people who exercise have a significantly lower chance of dying!

It seems Mr. Juan Ponce De Leon did not have to travel the world looking for the fountain of youth. He should have been exercising on the ship. Ok, so maybe the actual fountain of youth is a longer working option, but exercise seems to be the next best thing for now. 150 minutes of moderate exercise, weekly, reduces the risk of dying by 28 percent. Researchers also looked at lower levels of exercise and found a 22 percent reduction.

What kind of exercises can we do for those 150 minutes? Almost anything that gets us moving is great, but here are four things to work on, which are extra beneficial for seniors.

Balance training

Falls are the leading cause of injury for adults 65 and above. Working on exercise that improve your balance reduces that risk. To improve your balance try walking heel to toe, placing one foot in front of the other, with your heel touching the toe of your other foot. Walk forward twenty steps, stop, and repeat three times.

Flexibility training

Joining a yoga class or just stretching at home can have a great impact on overall health. Since stretching is a low impact activity, it’s the perfect opportunity to get the wonderful benefits of exercise without putting too much strain on our joints. There are wonderful classes in Connecticut where you can join a group of seniors already participating in stretching programs. Link to things for seniors in CT.

Cardio training

Getting your heart rate up on a consistent basis wards off heart disease and can easily be incorporated into daily life. Go for a walk, a mild jog, or a swim. Household chores and gardening is just as good. We do not need to run the New York Marathon. Anything that increases heart rate provides all the benefits of exercise, even a simple walk.

Strength training

Muscle loss begins for us at age 40. When we reach sixty we loose about 1.5% of our muscle each year. This increases further as we get older. Moderate strength training exercise helps fight that problem and also raises our heart rate to get the cardio benefits. You don’t need to be a body builder to practice muscle training. Take light weights, as low as five pounds, and practice bicep curls and arm lifts. Incorporating this into your weekly exercise routine is beneficial and fun.

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