Geriatric Exercise: the Ticket to Better Senior Health

By now, you are likely familiar with our evangelization of exercise. Here at AlterG, we certainly believe in the power of movement! Of course, the health benefits of geriatric exercise for seniors are well known. Better cardiovascular health, improved blood markers, stronger bones, and weight loss are just a few of the reasons to get up and get moving. What many people don’t realize, however, is that exercise can be especially important for seniors, a population not traditionally associated with strenuous physical activity.In honor of National Senior Health Day, let’s take a look at how exercise can help us age more gracefully.

According to Dr. John Montgomery, Vice President of Senior Care Solutions with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida, “Many characteristics we associate with older age, like the inability to walk long distances, climb stairs, or carry groceries are largely due to a lack of physical activity.” At the same time, according to AARP, a staggering 40 percent of people between the ages of 45 and 64 are sedentary. For people 64 and older, that number leaps to a whopping 60 percent. This is a troubling trend, when it comes to considering the healthcare impact of our increasingly aging population. We must halt and reverse this progression, and the best way to do that is to get our seniors moving.

The CDC asserts that seniors benefit from exercise even more than younger people, because they are at an increased risk of the health problems that accompany inactivity. Some of the many perks of physical activity for seniors include:

  1. Better mental health: Exciting new research points to exercise as perhaps the best medicine for beating back dementia and alzheimer’s disease. Additionally, exercise is a great natural mood enhancer, and can help seniors stay social through group activities, such as walking clubs, tai chi classes, and personal training gym sessions.
  2. Enhanced healing: As we age, our ability to bounce back from injuries or mend wounds diminishes. Studies suggest, however, that regular exercise by seniors may speed up the healing process by as much as 25 percent.
  3. Improved balance: For seniors, falls can lead to broken hips and other traumatic injuries, which can then lead to disability and a loss of independence. By maintaining strength, conditioning, and balance, however, seniors can protect against this unsettling scenario of rapid decline.
  4. Disease prevention and increased life expectancy: Many diseases associated with aging, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancers can be delayed or prevented through regular exercise, according to the National Institute of Aging.

For many seniors, the prospect of undertaking an exercise regimen can seem daunting. They may worry about safety, or feel that they have to engage in extremely strenuous activities to reap the rewards of fitness. But Dr. Montgomery explains that, “When it comes to geriatric exercise, consistency is more important than intensity. Moderate exercise, such as walking five or more days a week, can lead to substantial health benefits. Even brief amounts of physical activity, say 10 minutes at a time, can be beneficial.”

So, what is the best way for seniors to get moving, safely and comfortably? Well, might we suggest a little “moonwalking?” Indeed, any activity that gets the heart pumping and the muscles firing fits the bill, but the AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill™ is a uniquely valuable and versatile tool when it comes to facilitating safe, comfortable, effective senior exercise. The AlterG’s gentle unweighting technology eliminates the arthritic and osteoporotic pain many seniors experience when they attempt to exercise. Additionally, the AlterG’s fall-safe environment allows seniors to focus on getting the most out of their workouts, instead of worrying about staying upright. And the AlterG isn’t just for “doing the moonwalk” either. Seniors can use the reduced gravity environment to safely engage in balance and strength exercises, in addition to cardiovascular conditioning.

Better senior health is possible, and it is just a hop, skip, and a jump away. Let’s make 2016 the best year yet in senior health, by harnessing the power of geriatric exercise. For more information on safe exercise for seniors, check out this comprehensive guide offered through the NIH’s National Institute on Aging. And if you or a loved one would like to experience the “no pain, all gain” fun of exercise, check out our Zip Code Locater to find an AlterG unit in your neck of the woods. Defying age, by defying gravity; we like the sound of that!