Gone are the days of your grandparents when retirement meant relegating yourself to puttering in the garden and doing the rounds of tea with the neighbours.
Thanks to both medical advancements and greater personal wealth, folks over fifty today are finding their stride and have no intentions of slowing down. Instead, these years are being used to check off bucket list items, explore the freedom of the empty nest, and enjoying the fruits of their labours.
If that sounds like you, then the only thing that might get in your way is deteriorating health and ability; but those factors can be managed with a modicum of planning and diligence.
Reason #1: It Helps You Stay Social
Fitness is often ‘done’ in groups, whether on teams, as part of a class, or when training for a mutual goal (such as a race). Fitness classes or other activities are a great place to meet new friends and share quality time with old ones.
If you’re in the same class, you have already established that you have something in common. Shared experiences are what relationships and friendships are built on, after all.
One of the main health issues resulting from the pandemic has been depression. We’ve had far fewer social interactions because of isolating and because gyms have been closed down, and people have felt the impact both physically and emotionally. Our brain craves connection, so fitness classes are a great opportunity to feed two birds with one stone, as they say.
Reason #2: It Prevents Disease
Scientists have established direct connections between fitness/activity and the most common diseases out there: cancer, diabetes, respiratory disease, and many, many more.
“This is good news in that it means you absolutely have the opportunity to do something about your health prospects as you age,” says FitIn CEO Catherine Chan. “The bad news is now you know, you need to do something about it. Most of us want to live a long, healthy life, but many people don’t want to put in the daily work to make that happen.”
Chan encourages people to “try new things and experiment until you find something you really enjoy, so that the workout becomes less of a grind, and more like a fun activity that you look forward to eagerly.” By increasing your level of activity, you decrease your chances of being affected by disease.
Reason #3: It Prevents Depression
As we mentioned in reason number one above, humans are social animals, and our communities thrive when we engage with them. When you work out with a friend, you both get to bask in the support you lend each other, and those endorphins reinforce the positive experience.
However, activity also releases chemicals and hormones in our bodies that have a cascade of positive effects on our mental health and brain health. A study done as recently as 2019 suggests that exercise helps “fight depression in seniors by stimulating muscle-generated mood boosters.”
Reason #4: It Improves Bone Density
The biggest party pooper in the room is a broken hip – it sure slows you down. Women particularly seem to suffer from osteoporosis, but it affects men, too. And although you may take calcium supplements, another crucial factor to creating bone density is strength training.
Of course, you may have seen the now famous Joan McDonald or Ernestine Shepherd, but know that you don’t have to go all-in as they have in order to see results. However, there are plenty of options out there, and particularly classes designed specifically for keeping seniors’ bones strong, such as Darlene Caridi’s Functional Fitness for Housebound Seniors.
Beyond preventing osteoporosis, building muscle mass is important in its own right, because it helps with stability, balance, and being able to live independently.
How To Get Moving
When someone asks you what your favourite activity is, what comes to mind right away?
Whatever that is, it’s a great place to start.
You can also take advantage of a social platform to ask others what they like, and if they have a recommendation for you. Leverage your community to get you connected, or take the leadership role and invite others to join you.
No matter what you do or how you do it, activity and fitness are important for helping you live your life as you want. If you need inspiration, try following Ernestine or Joan (that we mentioned above) on social media to get you moving. If they can do it, you can too.