Have the cold, long days of winter left you feeling a little gloomy? Could you even admit to being a bit moody lately? Go ahead and blame Mother Nature.
The winter blues caused by Mother Nature are felt to some degree by an estimated one in four people — usually starting around October and ending in April with spring's thaw. For most, the winter blues produce mild but manageable sluggishness and food cravings that can be beat with — you guessed it, exercise!
Many don’t realize how effective exercise can be for your mental health; it’s even good enough to wage a war on depression. While depression is a serious concern that should be evaluated by a doctor, science has shown exercise can ease depression in a number of ways.
Why Should Seniors Exercise?
What can exercise do for you as an older adult? The benefits are countless. It can act as a free, effective, and side effect-less medication. It boosts your mood, increases brain function, makes you more comfortable, improves your heart, and so much more.
Start with a 30-minute walk outside when possible or inside (at the mall, a fitness center, a community center, etc.). Shoot for three to five times a week.
Work yourself up to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation for adults age 65 and older, with no limiting health factors: 2.5 hours of moderate aerobic activity or 1.25 hours of intense aerobic activity per week, along with 2 or more days of strength training each week.
While we all know exercise is good for the physical body, how can it help your mental health? Here are just a few of the mental and emotional benefits of exercise:
- Reduces stress and anxiety
- Treats depression
- Sharpens memory
- Improves self-esteem
- Heightens energy
- Strengthens resilience
- Improves sleep
How does Exercise Alleviate Depression?
So how does this work? Why does exercise help your mental health so much?
It has a lot to do with the chemicals in your body called endorphins. Scientists aren’t exactly sure why this happens, but they know that when you exercise, your body releases endorphins. This chemical reacts with receptors in your brain. This reaction allows your tolerance of pain to go up, as well as your mood. This leaves you feeling happy and upbeat after a workout. The result, in fact, is very similar to what the power pain medication morphine does.
The President of the International Longevity Center, Dr. Robert N. Butler, has said, “If exercise could be put in a pill, it would be the number one anti-aging medicine and the number one anti-depression medicine… and it avoids problems such as the side-effects of medication.”
However, in some cases, exercise may not be enough. Given the nature of depression, some who suffer from it can’t find the motivation to even get out of bed. If you or a loved one are in this situation, consult a doctor or trusted friend immediately.
What Type of Exercise is Best for Seniors?
Along with moderate aerobic exercise at least three times a week, incorporate strength training into your schedule twice a week. It’s always good to keep your fitness schedule diversified, so the body doesn’t grow accustomed to the same routine. And it’s more fun!
Incorporate these 4 types of exercise into your exercise schedule:
Think of your exercise routine like you would think of a well-balanced diet. Just as you want to eat from each category (vegetables, fruits, proteins and grains), your exercise program should dip into various categories as well.
A well-balanced workout regimen helps you achieve well-rounded results, from better sleep to a better mood. While endurance and aerobic activity provide more energy throughout the day, strength training exercises like weights and Pilates are good for achieving better sleep and mental clarity. Balance-focused exercises such as yoga and tai chi help you reach a more contented state, with less feeling of anxiety and stress.
Exercise is one of the most successful and cost effective ways to boost your mood, so go on and put a positive spin on your day — starting today!
Check out The Connection at Twin Lakes Senior Living Community.
The Connection fitness and wellness center serves adults age 50 and over. It’s open to the public, along with being one of the many included amenities for residents living at Twin Lakes Senior Living Community. The Connection features a fitness center, aquatic center and full schedule of classes as well as helpful and knowledgeable associates. You’ll have everything you need to live a healthier lifestyle!