The aging process has a way of making people risk-averse. Financial advisors typically recommend that men and women steer clear of risky investments as they age, and men and women over 50 often make lifestyle choices to reduce their risk of developing certain medical conditions.
As women age, some may feel exercise is simply too risky. Hormonal changes brought on by aging decrease a woman’s bone density, and that fact makes many women over 50 hesitant to embrace exercise. But exercise plays a key role in helping women over 50 secure their long-term health and reduce their risk of injury.
• Exercise promotes independence. Exercise, in particular strength training, slows bone deterioration, helping bones stay stronger longer and reducing a woman’s risk of suffering a potentially debilitating injury. Independence is especially important to seniors, many of whom spent years planning their retirements and awaiting the day when they would be free to travel at their leisure.
• Exercise can improve sleep. Some women who are fighting fatigue may feel that routine exercise will only make them more tired. But exercise actually improves energy levels and makes it easier to get a better night’s rest. Numerous studies have shown that routine exercise can improve sleep quality and even increase energy levels throughout the day. A more quality night’s rest improves vitality, making it easier for women to exercise and make it through the day without feeling fatigued.
• Exercise benefits those with limited mobility. Women over 50 with limited mobility may feel that exercise serves no purpose because of their disability or physical condition. But even women confined to wheelchairs or those forced to walk with a cane or walker can benefit from cardiovascular exercise and even light strength training. Such exercises can improve a woman’s range of motion while reducing her risk of heart disease.
It’s never too late to start exercising. Many aging women feel their time to embrace exercise has long since passed. Women should take a conservative approach when exercising after a long hiatus, beginning with a slow walk around the neighborhood or a local park. Walking is a great beginner’s exercise, as it provides a good cardiovascular workout while working a variety of muscle groups.
As your body readjusts to physical activity, gradually increase the intensity of your exercise sessions, adding some strength training, ideally under the supervision of a professional. Always stretch immediately after each exercise session, and give your body ample time to recover, especially when you begin your new regimen.