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The Importance of Staying Active as We Age

It’s easy to slow down without even noticing it. There are subtle changes in our activity level. We park closer or choose the elevator over the stairs. Our back, our knees, our everything is starting to hurt. The things we used to do have given way to more sedentary activities.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that “by age 75, about one in three men and one in two women engage in no physical activity.” With that lack of activity, comes the “loss of strength and stamina.” The more we sit, the weaker we get. But at Salina Presbyterian Manor, we can help you stay active.

Three big benefits of exercise

1. Stronger bones

While we often associate osteoporosis (weak, brittle bones) with older women, men also lose bone density as they age. Physical activity, especially strength training, can helps keep bones healthy. Strong bones mean better balance and fewer falls, with decreased risk of fractures.

2. Improved immunity

It is believed that increased circulation of immune cells during exercise can help keep inflammation at bay. Inflammation is associated with many health problems including arthritis and fibromyalgia.

3. Disease prevention

“Lifestyle” conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and heart disease can be improved through regular exercise. There is also evidence that physical activity can help with brain fitness and ward off cognitive decline.

Healthy in body, mind and spirit

No one expects you to go from hours on the couch (or at your desk) to running a marathon. But you might be able to take a short walk. Even just 5-10 minutes can make a difference if you do it regularly. It’s an easy way to start moving again.

At Salina Presbyterian Manor, we enjoy a beautiful walking path and pond at Ralph Reitz Memorial Park, which is located right here on our campus. The artificial surface of the walking path is easier on the knees and allows us to get moving. We feel a spring in our step and a spark in our spirit anytime we visit the park — because exercise has proven to also be good for our mood, as well as for our body.

A study conducted in Ontario, Canada, looked at healthy men aged 65 and over as they undertook a 12-week exercise regime. Results showed a greater amount of mood-enhancing chemicals in the men’s blood as they increased their activity levels. According to researchers, this is a new discovery into how “physical activity may help fight depression in seniors” by turning on certain genes within muscle tissue.

Best exercises for seniors

SilverSneakers®, a fitness program designed for seniors, identifies some of the best exercises as:

· Aerobics

· Cycling

· Pilates

· Strength training

· Swimming

· Walking

· Yoga

You may be eligible for SilverSneakers programs at local gyms and fitness centers as part of your Medicare coverage. You can also create an online account for access to exercise videos.

Do what you enjoy

You can rediscover a favorite activity you gave up long ago or try something completely new. Whatever it is, start slow and be patient with yourself. The more you enjoy the activity or program, the more likely you will stick with it.

Sometimes we choose not to exercise because we don’t feel comfortable walking or going to the gym alone. Having an exercise buddy (or buddies) can help keep you motivated and accountable. According to the CDC, “social support from family and friends has been consistently and positively related to regular physical activity.”

The best buddy will be someone with similar fitness goals who likes to exercise at the same time you do—whether that’s a morning walk, afternoon chair yoga or both. Having a buddy or being part of a group can encourage you to go farther and do more.

We offer many different group activities at Salina Presbyterian Manor. We find joy in being part of a lively community of friends and neighbors. Our fitness classes and wellness programs provide different opportunities for exercise and fellowship. We have a daily exercise class which  can include everything from riding stationary bikes and doing sittercize to using weights, batting balloons and more. We also enjoy exercise videos and have recently added a regular class using “oldies tunes” to keep our energy up.

Use it or lose it

Ancient Greek physician Hippocrates (460-370 BC), the founder of modern medicine, is quoted as saying: “That which is used – develops. That which is not used wastes away.” In other words, use it or lose it.

What was good for the human body almost 3,000 years ago is still good for us today. Just be sure to check with your doctor before starting any new exercise program. They will no doubt be pleased by your efforts and offer advice to help you succeed.

Helpful Links

National Council on Aging: The Life-Changing Benefits of Exercise After 60

American Psychological Association: Regular Exercise May Slow Decline in Those at Risk of Alzheimer's

AARP:  The Big Benefits of Exercise Buddies

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