You’d be surprised to learn that the majority of families don’t know all the benefits of cardio for seniors. It wouldn’t be news to most of us that cardiovascular exercise – physical activity that raises the heart rate for a sustained period of time – has great health benefits. But recent research reveals there are extra reasons for seniors to get in their cardio – whether it’s a brisk jog through the park, a rousing game of pickleball, or some invigorating laps in the pool. To help get you moving, here are some of the most important ways cardio exercise benefits senior health.
Cardiovascular exercise – cardio, for short – gets its name from the work it requires of the heart and blood vessels. This form of exercise forces the heart to pump oxygenated blood to the body’s other working muscles, and that effort results in increased blood vessel function, lower blood pressure, and better overall heart health. For seniors, a happy heart goes a long way toward rich later years in life.
Mental Health & Acuity
Amazingly, those morning bicycle rides, afternoon gardening routines, and evening ballroom dances don’t just improve the way your muscle’s function; they also enhance your brain activity. Research shows that regular exercise helps our brains to think clearly and reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Exercising also releases endorphins that are mood-boosters and ward off anxiety and depression. Being consistent with your choice of safe exercise for seniors – the CDC recommends 150 minutes a week for individuals over 65 with no limiting health conditions – can keep you feeling youthful, energized, and content.
Retirement offers a whole world of exciting possibilities, especially for seniors with a high level of mobility. Regular cardio exercise gives seniors the best chance to maintain the independence that allows them to keep learning, growing, and exploring. Cardio produces better endurance for tackling activities of daily living, keeping up with chores, climbing stairs, and pursuing hobbies. For weight issues that might otherwise limit physical activity, cardio offers a helpful solution. Regular exercise also improves balance and may reduce the rate of falls by as much as 23%. For seniors who are eager to maintain their independence and want the freedom to design what their day looks like – cardio is key.
It’s Never Too Late
For all these reasons and more – better sleep, improved lung function – cardio exercise forms an essential part of healthy aging. The great news is that the health benefits of cardio for seniors begin as soon as the exercise does. Even a senior who did not exercise regularly in middle age can see great health gains by starting a routine in their 60s or 70s. So, get out and get moving with your loved ones!
There is often a time in your life when you walk with discomfort. Whether that discomfort stems from your hips, knees, or ankles, a good solution is water therapy or exercising in a warm water pool.
Your body weight can drop by up to 60% when standing in water, significantly reducing the pressure on your joints. This may result in multiple benefits of cardio for seniors with water exercise, including the following:
- Reduced risk of repeat injury
- Reduced pain and muscle soreness
- Reduced inflammation and decreased joint stiffness due to the warm 92-degree water temperature
- Weight loss
- Improved neurological communication between brain and muscles
- Improved leg strength and endurance
- Improved flexibility
- Adaptable setting with a range of tools to assist
- Relaxation that reduces your overall stress level
- The joy of walking for many wheelchair-bound individuals who find it challenging to stand
If you can’t find an exercise that feels good, try water. It is worth the effort.
— Sheila Walsh, Shorewood Wellness Director