Senior Exercise and Rehabilitation Promote Health and Independence

The loss of mobility and independence can be one of the most difficult and traumatic consequences of illness, injury, or even the natural aging process for seniors and their families. From disruptions in daily routines and overall quality of life to social isolation, the effects of limited movement can have a profound impact on an older adult’s health and general well-being. A study conducted by the University of Florida found seniors who engage in moderate daily physical activity are less likely to suffer from loss of mobility and hospitalizations than their sedentary counterparts. In addition to helping older people stay active and independent, regular physical activity can also lower the risk of many health problems that affect them.

Far-reaching Benefits

The benefits of regular exercise and movement for people of all ages have been well-documented. As the long-term health risks and dangers of a sedentary lifestyle become more well-known, seniors and older adults are at an even greater risk. According to recent data, 67 percent of older adults are reported to be predominantly sedentary (over 8 hours a day). Physical therapy and ongoing exercise after an injury or surgery are necessary to maintain and improve mobility in seniors. But they have also been shown to help manage and decrease the risk of a number of additional health risks that can also affect a seniors quality of life and independence, including:

  • Dementia
  • Heart disease
  • Cancer
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Arthritis
  • Hypertension
  • Depression
  • Insomnia

Seniors also benefit from physical therapy and rehab activities designed to improve strength and balance, coordination, joint health, healthy weight, flexibility, and agility. As people age, they naturally lose muscle mass and bone density. When coupled with balance and coordination problems that are common with age, and in seniors suffering from physical ailments like arthritis or osteoporosis, a fall or injury can be debilitating.

Tips for Helping Seniors Stay Active and Mobile

Consult their doctors and medical team to ensure that seniors are getting the appropriate level of physical activity to prevent and/or heal properly after an injury, surgical procedure or fall. Depending on their needs and the level of support necessary, assisted living and active retirement programs are ideal for customized and supervised activity, and may be the best living situation rather than living at home.

Getting started or modifying an exercise routine for older adults can be as simple as going for a daily walk. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, adults over age 70 can benefit from beginning a moderate exercise schedule like walking combined with strength training. Seniors who move regularly were found to be 28 percent less likely to become disabled, and 18 percent less likely to suffer from an overall disability. Taking a simple walk a few times a week may not seem like it will have much of an impact in the short term, but the benefits add up and can go a long way toward securing their mobility and independence.

Walking is one possibility, but other low impact physical activities like dancing can have the same effect. The key to forming any good long-term habit is to find an activity that is both engaging, fun, and one they will look forward to doing on a regular basis.

Making Exercise Fun and Social for Seniors

One of the biggest issues that many seniors face after they become homebound or are restricted in their movements is social isolation, which can lead to a number of additional health problems, including anxiety, depression and cognitive decline. Taking regular evening walks with friends and family, or attending regular sessions with fellow seniors, can help older adults stay healthy and physically fit, and avoid many of the secondary health risks that come with aging.

As more and more adults reach retirement age and continue to live longer than previous generations, lifestyle changes and activities that promote long-term health, fitness and independence will become a growing priority for seniors and their families. The good news is that it is never too late to get moving. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that seniors regularly perform activities that engage the major muscle groups and core, including:

  • Legs
  • Hips
  • Back
  • Chest
  • Abdomen
  • Shoulders
  • Arms

In addition to cardio and aerobic exercises, strength- and muscle-building activities help to keep seniors active and strong, but weight lifting or going to the gym are not their only options. A couple of alternatives include:

  • Resistance bands
  • Using body weight for resistance (push ups, sit ups)
  • Gardening (digging, shoveling)
  • Yoga

Get creative and experiment with what works best and keeps your loved one engaged and excited to get moving on a daily, weekly and long-term basis for the best results.

SALMON Health and Retirement offers a number of programs designed to support seniors and their families, including:

  • Short-term rehab
  • Post-acute care
  • Long-term care
  • Assisted living
  • Active retirement

For more information contact us today.