Research suggests that as many as 14% of males and 18% of females over age 55 are depressed. It has been documented, in younger adults, that exercise can alleviate symptoms of depression and even compete with the effects of antidepressant medication or psychotherapy in terms of effectiveness. Unfortunately, there is very little research on the effects of exercise on depression in older adults. What is fair to say is that exercise has a mood-elevating effect in most adults, whatever their age, even if it's not the cure for depression in the elderly. Talk to most anyone who exercises, no matter what their age, and they will report what used to be called a "feel-good" phenomenon after exercise. Whether it's from getting the heart beating or the blood pumping, from invigorating brain cells, or simply getting out in the fresh air, a good dose of exercise typically improves mood, and so is recommended for virtually everyone.
Osteoporosis is responsible for 2 million fractures annually. The good news is that exercise can increase bone density in some older individuals. The precise amount and type of exercise necessary to achieve benefit is unknown, but encouragingly, research shows that weight lifting, and even just walking, can increase bone density in the hip and spine. The reason for this may be that weight lifting causes stress on the bones as the muscles contract (which causes the bones to thicken), and walking also causes stress on the bones, which stimulates them to grow.
Importantly, strength isn't just a function of mass. It's also a function of something called "neurological patterning." In layman's terms, patterning is when the brain sends electrical signals via the nervous system to muscles to make them contract. For example, when you think about walking down the street, bending over to pick something up, or any other movement for that matter, the brain first processes the thought and figures out what muscles are needed to make the move and then sends the signal over the nerves to the particular muscles that are necessary for the movement. The muscles move (and so do you) once the signal reaches them. (See "How muscles work" for more detail.)
Strength training is a type of physical exercises specializing in the use of resistance to induce muscular contraction. They help build strength, endurance, and size of muscles. In other words, it’s a method of improving muscular strength by gradually increasing the ability to resist force through the use of free weights, machines, or the person’s own body weight.
Traditional push-ups are a great way to work muscles in the arms, shoulders, and chest; however, they can be difficult to complete correctly. You can modify this exercise and still get health benefits by doing wall push-ups. Face a blank wall while standing about arm’s length away, lean forward, and press your palms flat against the wall. Bend your arms and slowly bring your upper body toward the wall, hold for a moment, and push yourself back until your arms are straight again. Do a set of 10 reps, rest, and repeat another set.
One of the important conclusions of the research is that it's important to select balance-training exercises that are specific to activities you are likely to do during the day. For instance, you might want to do balance exercises on one leg that mimic the act of walking if you are unsteady while you walk (when you walk, one leg is in the air). Tai chi is excellent for this because it involves slow, coordinated movements, and is particularly beneficial for balance since you lift one leg frequently while doing it. (See also the balance exercises at the end of this article.)
If you’ve ever seen the show, you know there’s big bucks to be saved in the couponing game. I will say...it does take time, patience, and a level of skill, but start saving money on groceries and other necessities by strategically collecting coupons. Don’t just recycle the coupon mailers that come through each week - give them a scan and start making a habit of cutting out coupons you can use that month. You can also print coupons offline for free using sites like Coupons.com .
Put together a nostalgic treasure chest of memories by making a time capsule for future generations to open in the years to come. Using a stainless steel container with a strong seal, fill your time capsule with memorable items that will surprise and delight like old records or cd’s, newspaper clippings, movie stubs, collector stamps, your favorite book, and a handwritten letter. When deciding where to store your time capsule, remember generally above ground in a place agreed upon with your children is best.
Another helpful stretch starts in the same standing position, but this time, clasp your hands in front. Turn your hands so the palms face the ground and bring your arms up to shoulder height. Press your palms outward, away from the body, and hold the move for about 30 seconds, release, and repeat. This exercise benefits the muscles of the neck, shoulders, and upper back.
It’s a simple exercise—you push your hips back, as if you’re about to sit in a chair, and then straighten your hips and knees as you return to the standing position—with countless variations. If you belong to a gym, you’ve probably seen a bunch of them, starting with the impossibly strong young men who squat with hundreds of pounds on their backs. Obviously, that’s not the right choice for you. (Or for anybody who isn’t young and injury-free.)
The process of building muscle takes time, but the benefits are enormous for your health as a senior. Strength training requires good form to reap full benefit. Start with some basic, low-impact exercises: You can promote lower body strength by squatting in front of a sturdy chair. Keep your arms in front of you and be sure not to extend your knees past your toes as you bend to an almost-sitting position. Hold the position for a few moments, then raise yourself back to a standing position, take a breather, and repeat for two sets of 10 reps. Hold onto the sides of the chair or place a few pillows on the chair if the exercise is too challenging.
One of the most exciting areas of exercise research is the investigation of cognitive function. What scientists have learned so far is that brain neurons, the special cells that help you think, move, perform all the bodily functions that keep you alive, and even help your memory, all increase in number after just a few days or weeks of regular activity. In a study in which researchers used an MRI machine to measure the amount of brain tissue in adults 55 years of age and older, they found results, consistent with other studies of aging and brain volume, showing there were substantial declines in brain tissue density as a function of age in areas of the brain responsible for thinking and memory, but importantly, the losses in these areas were substantially reduced as a function of cardiovascular fitness. In other words, the fittest individuals had the most brain tissue.
For balance exercise: Do some or all of these exercises every day for best results. Have someone standing nearby to support you if you are concerned you might fall, especially for the ones where I suggest closing your eyes, since this is the most challenging. Speak with your doctor before doing these exercises if you have a balance disturbance or are concerned about whether it is safe for you to do them.
Restless leg syndrome (RLS), also known as Willis-Ekbom, is a sleep disorder that affects the nervous system. The hallmark symptom of RLS is the irresistible urge to move your legs while resting. The urge is temporarily relieved with movement and can recur throughout the night. If you’re looking for a way to help reduce your symptoms of restless leg syndrome with minimal side effects, then check out the recommended yoga poses below.
On any matter relating to your health or well-being, please check with an appropriate health professional. No statement herein is to be construed as a diagnosis, treatment, preventative, or cure for any disease, disorder or abnormal physical state. The statements herein have not been evaluated by the Foods and Drugs Administration or Health Canada. Dr. Marchione and the doctors on the Bel Marra Health Editorial Team are compensated by Bel Marra Health for their work in creating content, consulting along with formulating and endorsing products.
Usually associated with the county, senior centers offer a wide variety of services and support, along with social events. Visit your senior center or look for their website online to get more information on what they have to offer. Most sites will provide a list of programs and upcoming events that are open to the public. Getting involved in some social activities will open the doors to meeting others in your community!