As you grow older, an active lifestyle is more important than ever.

Regular exercise can help boost energy, maintain your independence, help manage symptoms of illness and even slow down the natural aging process.

Exercise can energize your mood, relieve stress, help you manage symptoms of illness and pain and improve your overall sense of well-being.

Simply stated, exercise is the key to healthy aging and staying strong and energetic.

The most rewarding part of beginning a fitness routine is noticing the difference it makes in the rest of your life.

Even if you begin exercising with a few simple stretches or a short walk around your neighborhood, you will notice an improvement in how you feel as you go about your day, which ultimately increases your quality of life.

No matter your age or your current physical condition, you can benefit from exercise. The physical and mental benefits of fitness for older adults include:

Increased metabolism: Metabolism naturally slows with age; however, exercise helps increase metabolism and builds muscle mass, helping to burn more calories. When you are at a healthy weight, overall wellness improves.

Reduction of illness and chronic disease: People who exercise have a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, osteoporosis and colon cancer. In addition, exercise improves immune function, heart health, blood pressure, bone density and digestive function.

Enhanced mobility, flexibility and balance: Exercise improves strength, flexibility and posture, which in turn will help with balance, coordination, and reducing the risk of falls. Resistance training also helps alleviate the symptoms of chronic conditions such as arthritis and fibromyalgia.

Improved sleep: Exercise helps you fall asleep more quickly and sleep more deeply.

Increased self-confidence: Endorphins produced by exercise can actually help you feel better and reduce feelings of depression. Being strong and active naturally increases your self-confidence and can improve your mood.

Enriched brain activity: Exercise benefits regular brain function and keeps the brain active, which can prevent memory loss and cognitive decline; in addition studies show exercise can slow the progression of brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Exercise should be fun and the key is to find activities you like. Types of activities beneficial for older adults include walking, senior fitness classes, water aerobics, yoga and Tai Chi.

For resistance training, seek the advice of a personal trainer experienced in senior fitness for guidance.

Carey Stites is a certified personal trainer, group fitness instructor and a Registered Dietitian with a master’s degree in nutrition. Carey is currently the Registered Dietitian working with Wellstone in Harker Heights. Contact her at carey.stites@smchh.org.

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