Healthy Living for Seniors: The Impact of Movement on Mind and Body

Health

Research shows that you're likely to live an average of about 10 years longer than your parents—and not only that, but you're likely to live healthier, longer too. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 40.4 million Americans (about 13 percent) were 65 years of age or older in 2010 and by the year 2030, almost 20 percent of the total U.S. population will be 65+.

There are many things that are out of our control as we age, but we do have control over some things. Those include: making healthy lifestyle choices, having a positive outlook, staying active, connecting with friends and family, regular doctor check-ups, and involving yourself in things you enjoy. Stress can have an enormous impact on your health and your quality of life at any age—and even more so as you get older. In fact, according to a recent study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, depression and anxiety are linked to physical decline in seniors.

Janet Bodie, Fitness Instructor at The Springs Living in Hillsboro, Oregon, says there is also a direct link between decreased depression and anxiety when an individual is involved in an exercise program. “Most of the residents I work with have some mobility challenges, and it’s such a joy to get them in the pool and walking, when they can’t walk on land. I’m in my 60’s, so for someone who is aging myself, I get where they’re at. I feel like we relate better because of that.”

Bodie says she also enjoys learning about new fitness trends and modifying popular fitness classes to fit older people or people with limited mobility. Examples include PoundTM Class, which is a contemporary form of exercise that combines balance and core strength. “Participants drum by sitting down and pounding on an exercise ball,” she explains. “We pound to up-beat, fun music and the drumming rhythm increases focus and decision making, while also enhancing hand-eye coordination, not to mention, it’s really fun!”

Other classes include Tai Chi, which can be done sitting or standing, pool volleyball for ease of movement, and Cyber Cycle. “I can’t even tell you how much everyone loves Cyber Cycle,” Bodie exclaims. “It challenges you both physically and mentally, and you can make your rides easy or hard- it’s really up to the individual how hard they want to push. But the most amazing part is there are more than 40 different rides, so it’s always new and fun, plus we do team challenges where we all ride somewhere fun, like San Francisco (virtually) together!”

It’s been proved time and again, that working out and getting your body moving also encourages mental well-being, which for Bodie is a large part of why she loves her job. She also says a good morning workout sets the tone for the rest of the day, including food choices, which plays a significant role in the health and wellness of the residents.

While exercise is an important part of good health at every age, many older adults don't get the recommended amounts of physical activity. Staying active can boost vitality, help maintain strength and flexibility, improve mental function, reduce your risk for health problems, and even help relieve chronic pain. 

Bodie suggests you find an activity you enjoy and begin slowly. “Try to incorporate endurance activities, strengthening exercises, stretching and balancing exercises into your exercise program,” she advises.  “Good choices include walking, swimming, biking, gardening, tai chi and exercise classes designed for seniors. Everything we do at The Springs Living is designed for the changes our residents are experiencing, but at the same time, we encourage everyone to push their limits, try something new. One step in front of the other, and before you know it, you’re off to the races!”