Like most of the United States, Illinois’s population is aging, meaning that the average age is increasing each year. About 35% of the population is over the age of 50, which is comparable to the U.S. Although senior citizen age is considered 65 and older, Illinois’s population of those over the age of 60 increased to over three million people in 2020 and is projected to increase at least another half million by 2030.
An aging population means people are living longer, but living longer and being unhealthy isn’t ideal. Here are the top three reasons why seniors in Illinois (and all over the U.S.) should remain physically active.
#1: Cognitive Health Benefits
Dementia, particularly Alzheimer’s Disease, is often associated with aging and includes memory loss and impaired judgment. The Alzheimer’s Association suggests that regular physical activity may decrease the likelihood of developing this disease. This is because heart health may be linked to brain health, and the majority of people already know how beneficial physical activity is to heart health.
Preventing dementia isn’t the only cognitive benefit that senior citizens receive from remaining physically active. Regular exercise has also been shown to improve mental health, which is something that isn’t always discussed in this age group. Retirement, and losing parents, friends, siblings, and other loved ones can affect seniors’ mental health and an estimated 20% of those over the age of 55 experience some type of mental health issue.
Note that serious mental health issues should be discussed with your doctor, but adding in more physical activity helps improve mental health in people of all ages.
#2: Internal Health Benefits
One of the most obvious health benefits of remaining physically active is how it impacts your health internally. Regular physical activity is linked to a lowered risk of heart disease and stroke (due to exercise decreasing both blood pressure and cholesterol levels), a lowered risk of Type II Diabetes, and even a lowered risk of certain types of cancers.
Of course, exercise alone isn’t enough to decrease these health risks— many of which are associated with aging. It’s also necessary to choose healthy foods to nourish your body. For the best (and safest) results, talk to your doctor about what type of diet is best for you. In a general sense, it’s best to limit saturated fats, added sugars, and simple carbohydrates and instead focus on:
- Unsaturated fats
- Natural sugars (e.g., raw honey)
- Complex carbohydrates
You should also make sure that you’re drinking enough water and getting enough of the daily recommended vitamins and minerals. A healthy diet combined with regular physical activity decreases your risk of developing so many illnesses and diseases. Again, you should always talk to your doctor about your diet and your exercise program to ensure both your health and safety.
#3: Physical Health Benefits
Another obvious benefit, physical activity results in physical health benefits, but this is even more important for senior citizens. When elders continue to be physically active, they increase their chances of being able to remain independent. As we age, our muscles and bones begin to weaken and this makes tripping and falling much more dangerous. Even without tripping or falling, mobility can decrease due to a lack of physical activity, and decreased mobility is one reason why many seniors in Illinois are living in nursing homes.
Illinois senior care abuse lawyers can get justice for seniors who have been abused in an Illinois nursing home since many of these assisted living facilities provide substandard care. Many seniors and their families try to avoid nursing homes because of the poor quality of care in these facilities.
The good news is that seniors who increase their physical activity can continue living in their homes (i.e., age in place), and avoid having to move into a nursing home or other assisted living. Even light physical activity can strengthen the muscles and bones and improve balance. Simple tasks like housework, yard work (including gardening), and walking are enough physical activity for most seniors to perform safely and remain active.
These three reasons can apply to seniors living anywhere in the world, not just in Illinois. These are also helpful tips for people of all ages. In fact, the earlier you begin a healthy lifestyle, the more likely you are to maintain it. However, it’s never too late to become healthier— just remember to consult with your doctor before making any changes to your current lifestyle.