Aging brings about many changes. Beyond graying hair and wrinkles, your brain is also changing as you grow older and wiser. According to McKnight Brain Research Foundation, 87% of people 65 and older experience cognitive changes associated with normal aging. The good news is that these changes don’t have to be a normal passage of aging. You may find that you can combat some cognitive decline through exercise.
Beyond staying physically fit and healthy, exercise can benefit your mental health. Physical activity improves cognitive function as people age through neuroplasticity, which allows the brain to compensate for injury and disease and adjust in response to new situations. Exercise also helps alleviate stress and depression.
Here are three ways you can stay physically active and reap the mental benefits.
Take a walk
Daily walks are incredibly beneficial and easy to incorporate into your routine. You can start small by taking a walk around your block or going to a local park for a short circuit. As you continue to build your walking stamina, you may find that you can go farther and farther.
While walking, you can also enjoy listening to an audiobook or podcast. Learning about new subjects is another excellent way to keep your mind healthy as you age. You can also listen to music or simply enjoy the ambient sounds of nature.
Walking doesn’t have to be a solitary activity. Ask a friend or family member to come along on your daily walk. Your neighborhood may have local walking groups. Joining a group allows you to stay active, provides community and allows you to make new friends.
Join a fitness class
Group exercise is a great way to stay active. Your local gym or community center is likely to have group fitness classes like SilverSneakers several days a week at various times, so you can easily find one that fits your schedule.
Whether you’re going back to a familiar activity like swimming and water aerobics or learning a new form of exercise like yoga and dance, a fitness class allows you to have a repeating, consistent physical activity in your weekly schedule.
“I encourage seniors who are new to exercise to try a class like SilverSneakers that is designed specifically for older adults,” said Richard Ashworth, president and CEO of Tivity Health, the company that delivers SilverSneakers. “We also have a wide variety of live virtual classes through SilverSneakers.com with trainers who guide participants every step of the way. These classes are a great way to get moving from the comfort of your home.”
Keeping your mind as active as your body is vital to healthy aging. SilverSneakers has added mental enrichment to the experiences available to members by joining forces with GetSetUp, a virtual learning platform designed specifically for seniors. The program offers a wide range of classes through a senior-specific video platform optimized for ease of activation, user engagement and social connection.
“Once you turn 65 or 85, it doesn’t mean you can’t keep learning, trying new things and sharing your passions with others,” said Lawrence Kosick, Co-Founder and President of GetSetUp. “The older adults who participate in GetSetUp classes are eager to explore new topics and develop or deepen hobbies. Not only is it a lot of fun, but with brain health being as important as physical health as we age, learning new skills or enjoying mentally stimulating activities with peers all can lead to healthier aging.”
These online classes allow older adults to learn new skills, combat social isolation and unlock new life experiences. The program also encourages seniors to become instructors and share their skills and knowledge with their peers.
As you age, you tend to lose some muscle strength and elasticity and your joints weaken. A gentle way to incorporate movement into your life is to do daily stretches. Stretching provides several benefits, including increased circulation and blood flow, enhanced muscle strength and improved range of motion and flexibility. You may also find that stretching relieves lower back pain and stiffness associated with arthritis.
Low-intensity stretching — such as lunges, squats and shoulder circles — can also improve your mood and energy. You can incorporate these and other stretches into your routine by starting your day with some light stretches after your morning cup of coffee or doing a few dynamic yoga stretches before turning in for the night.
No matter what type of physical activity you decide to do, invest in your mind and body and get moving today.