Staying Active: Why Exercise is Pivotal in Retirement


Imagine this: You have a beautiful home filled with memories of children racing through the halls, laughter filling every corner as though the youngsters could somehow expand like balloons. Fast forward some years and the memories take a different shape. Teenagers parading through the stairwell accompanied by hordes of friends. Soon enough, the noise fades and the spaces become quiet. The children have moved on, off to create families or careers of their own, and your life has slowed down a bit.

Yet your zest for life hasn’t disappeared. You still crave movement and celebration; you still enjoy interacting with other people, discovering new places, indulging in The Good Life.

How do you pair your desire for an enriched life with the reality of getting older? How do you achieve mental and physical fulfillment when you’re worried about falling, weight or pain issues, or overall health concerns?

For many seniors, the answer is to live in a retirement community.

As of 2012, there were nearly 5,000 retirement communities in the United States, and that number has steadily increased since then. While the reasons to choose this living option vary, one thing is oft repeated: Retirees love the vast range of physical activities available to them in such environments. And with good reason. After all, exercise is one of the most impactful ways to achieve better mental and physical health as we age.

What are the benefits of exercise for older adults?

When it comes to exercise, it’s never too late to start. In fact, even seniors who wait to exercise until their later years of life can reap important benefits. And though one notable advantage to exercising is increased longevity, it is far from the only benefit. Getting active isn’t just about adding years to your life; it’s about adding life to your years.

Physical benefits

Before delving into the advantages of being active, let’s clarify one significant point: This isn’t about traversing mountains or running marathons; being active can be as simple as walking or gardening or as wild as skiing the slopes of Colorado. It’s up to you and your healthcare provider to determine what you’re physically able to handle.

Finding that happy medium, the point at which you’re able to sustain a regular routine without sacrificing your safety, can bring tremendous results, including:

  • Reduces your likelihood of falling. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in four Americans age 65 or older falls every year. Falls are the leading cause of fatal injuries and are the most common reason for non-fatal hospital visits every year in this demographic. That said, exercising is the single-most effective way to prevent falls. It improves your strength, posture, and flexibility, thereby helping your balance and coordination.
  • Reduces the impact of illnesses and chronic disease. People who remain physically active often have improved immune and digestive functioning, more stable blood pressure and bone density, and are at a lower risk of many diseases and disorders common later in life, such as Alzheimer’s, obesity, and diabetes. Consistent exercise can help your insulin lower your blood sugar levels, as well as boost your energy and control your weight.
  • Reduce pain. Frequent low-impact aerobic exercise can increase your body’s endurance and improve muscle function. Strength training, including core strengthening exercises planks and sit-ups, can help alleviate the debilitating effects of chronic conditions such as arthritis while also reducing joint stiffness and its associated pain.
  • Strengthens bones. Physical activity protects against bone loss. Having higher bone density lessens the risk of osteoporosis and contributes to the protection against falls. Although men undergo some bone density loss with age, post-menopausal women are at a much greater risk and can lose as much as 2 percent bone mass each year. Strength training can substantially combat this loss and restore bone health.
  • Improve gastrointestinal functioning. Not only does exercise help regulate your metabolism, it promotes the efficient elimination of waste and reduces the likelihood of constipation.

Mental health benefits

If you’ve ever gone for a jog after a stressful day, you likely felt better afterward. Although your muscles may have been tired, the mood-enhancing impact of exercise is undeniable. Here are some of the mental health benefits that come from an active lifestyle:

  • Reduced anxiety. Research has shown that people with anxiety are less likely to respond to fight-or-flight situations with panic if they’re in the habit of exercising. This is because exercise creates all of the physical sensations of fight-or-flight — sweating, increased heart rate, dizziness — without the need to panic.
  • Improves mood and self-confidence. Being active and physically strong naturally increases your self-confidence. Having something meaningful to do with your time improves your mood and overall sense of well-being. Combined with the natural endorphin-boost that physical activity provides, these benefits of exercise can restore an older person’s mental health noticeably.
  • Improves sleep. There’s no doubt that sleep plays a significant role in a person’s mental health. Regular exercise can greatly improve a person’s ability to fall asleep quickly, stay asleep, and wake up feeling refreshed and energized.

Which exercises are best for seniors?

Trendy exercises that captivate younger generations are often not feasible for older people. As we age, we simply lack the muscle mass, balance, and coordination to safely accomplish such physical feats. However, this doesn’t mean there aren’t a slew of activities that are appropriate, enjoyable, and helpful for senior health.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises adults age 65 and older with no limiting health conditions to participate in consistent, weekly exercise. It recommends a combination of aerobic activity and muscle-strengthening activities. Some possibilities include:

  • Brisk walking
  • Pushing a lawn mower
  • Bicycling
  • Dancing
  • Low-impact stretching and aqua-aerobics
  • Lifting weights
  • Elliptical machine or treadmill
  • Swimming

How can retirement communities help?

Living in a retirement community can help older adults stay active and engaged, not only physically but also mentally. While it’s very common for seniors to feel isolated and depressed, living in a like-minded community can help negate those feelings. Since most residents in a retirement area are in a similar stage of life, their shared experiences can equate to improved health benefits.

Many retirement communities provide extra amenities designed to help residents pursue an active lifestyle. Retirement community living offers the following benefits to residents so that you can continue staying connected and active throughout your life:

Wellness programs that foster togetherness and movement. This includes an activity calendar filled with celebrations, games, and outings, wellness seminars, and group exercise classes.

Equipment and space to engage in physical activity, such as cardio and strength training machines, a heated indoor pool, outdoor walking paths, and on-site spa services.

Personnel trained to help you achieve your wellness goals. You’ll have ready access to a personal trainer, licensed professionals to provide supportive senior care, a fully staffed on-site primary care practice, and 24/7 emergency care.

Cambridge Village Apex Schedule a Tour

Life at Cambridge Village of Apex, North Carolina, goes beyond retirement living. By focusing on improving every aspect of our residents’ lives, we create Optimal Living. We aim to make every resident feel welcome, provide them with opportunities to build friendships, and help them find a niche where they belong. Experience the new retirement at Cambridge Village of Apex, North Carolina. Contact us to schedule a tour of our senior living community or give us a call today (919) 363-2080.