As we age, our bodies undergo significant changes that can make it more challenging to maintain our physical and mental health. However, staying active and participating in regular exercise as an older adult can help reduce the risk of chronic diseases, improve their mental health, and maintain physical function.
Importantly, one study found that participation in exercise can contribute to maintaining quality of life, health, and physical function and reducing falls among older people in general and older people with existing co-morbidities in particular(1). This highlights the importance of exercise for maintaining physical independence and reducing the risk of falls, which can lead to serious injuries among older adults. Exercise can also help reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
In addition to reducing the risk of chronic diseases and falls, exercise can also help improve mental health among older adults. Another study found that a higher number of steps was associated with a lower risk of all-cause dementia(2). The findings suggest that a dose of just under 10,000 steps per day may be optimally associated with a lower risk of dementia(2). This emphasizes the importance of consistent daily exercise- no matter what intensity feels most comfortable for you.
Another study revealed a bidirectional relationship between physical activity and executive function(3). Executive function is defined as the necessary mental processes that support everyday decision making, planning, and multi-tasking. Older adults who engage in physical activity involving physical exertion tend to maintain high levels of executive function(3). This adds to the existing evidence suggesting that physical activity can mitigate cognitive decline with age.
Overall, regular exercise and physical activity can play a crucial role in improving the health and well-being of older adults. From reducing the risk of chronic diseases to improving mental health and physical function, staying active can help older adults maintain their quality of life and independence as they age.
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Langhammer B, Bergland A, Rydwik E. (2018) The Importance of Physical Activity Exercise among Older People.
Del Pozo Cruz B, Ahmadi M, Naismith SL, Stamatakis E. (2022) Association of Daily Step Count and Intensity With Incident Dementia in 78 430 Adults Living in the UK.
Daly M, McMinn D, Allan JL. (2015) A bidirectional relationship between physical activity and executive function in older adults.