Individual Benefits of Physical Activity for Older Persons: Physiological Benefits
- Glucose levels: Physical activity helps regulate blood glucose levels.
- Catecholamine activity: Both adrenalin and noradrenalin levels are stimulated by physical activity.
- Improved sleep: Physical activity has been shown to enhance sleep quality and quantity in individuals of all ages.
- Aerobic/cardiovascular endurance: Substantial improvements in almost all aspects of cardiovascular functioning have been observed following appropriate physical training.
- Resistive training/muscle strengthening: Individuals of all ages can benefit from muscle strengthening exercises. Resistance training can have a significant impact on the maintenance of independence in old age.
- Flexibility: Exercise that stimulates movement throughout the range of motion assists in the preservation and restoration of flexibility.
- Balance/coordination: Regular activity helps prevent and/or postpone the age-associated declines in balance and coordination, which are major risk factors for falls.
- Velocity of movement: Behavioral slowing is a characteristic of advancing age. Individuals who are regularly active can often postpone these age-related declines.
Individual Benefits of Physical Activity for Older Persons: Psychological Benefits
- Relaxation: Appropriate physical activity enhances relaxation.
- Reduces stress and anxiety: There is evidence that regular physical activity can reduce stress and anxiety.
- Enhanced mood state: Numerous people report elevations in mood state following appropriate physical activity.
- General well-being: Improvements in almost all aspects of psychological functioning have been observed following periods of extended physical activity.
- Improved mental health: Regular exercise can make an important contribution in the treatment of several mental illnesses, including depression and anxiety neuroses.
- Cognitive improvements: Regular physical activity may help postpone age-related declines in central nervous system processing speed and improve reaction time.
- Motor control and performance: Regular activity helps prevent and/or postpone the age-associated declines in both fine and gross motor performance.
- Skill acquisition: New skills can be learned and existing skills refined by all individuals regardless of age.
Individual Benefits of Physical Activity for Older Persons: Social Benefits
- Empowering older individuals: A large proportion of the older adult population voluntarily adopts a sedentary lifestyle, which eventually threatens to reduce independence and self-sufficiency. Participation in appropriate physical activity can help empower older individuals and assist them in playing a more active role in society.
- Enhanced social and cultural integration: Physical activity programs, particularly when carried out in small groups and/or in social environments, enhance social and intercultural interactions for many older adults.
- Enhanced integration: Regularly active individuals are less likely to withdraw from society and more likely to actively contribute to the social milieu.
- Formation of new friendships: Participation in physical activity, particularly in small groups and other social environments, stimulates new friendships and acquaintances.
- Widened social and cultural networks: Physical activity frequently provides individuals with an opportunity to widen available social networks.
- Role maintenance and new role acquisition: A physically active lifestyle helps foster the stimulating environments necessary for maintaining an active role in society, as well as for acquiring positive new roles.
- Enhanced intergenerational activity: In many societies, physical activity is a shared activity that provides opportunities for intergenerational contact thereby diminishing stereotypic perceptions about aging and the elderly.
Societal Benefits of Promoting Physical Activity for Older Persons
- Reduced health and social care costs: Physical inactivity and sedentary living contribute to a decrease in independence and the onset of many chronic diseases. Physically active lifestyles can help postpone the onset of physical frailty and disease thereby significantly reducing health and social care costs.
- Enhancing the productivity of older adults: Older individuals have much to contribute to society. Physically active lifestyles help older adults maintain functional independence and optimize the extent to which they are able to actively participate in society.
- Promoting a positive and active image of older persons: A society that promotes a physically active lifestyle for older adults is more likely to reap the benefits of the wealth of experience and wisdom possessed by the older individuals in the community. A large proportion of the older adult population voluntarily adopts a sedentary lifestyle, which eventually threatens to reduce independence and self-sufficiency.