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Boosting Senior Mental Health: 5 Physical Exercises That Make a Difference

Boosting Senior Mental Health: 5 Physical Exercises That Make a Difference

A smiling senior man stretches before a run in a park
September 29, 2023

Physical activity has long been recognized as a crucial component of a healthy lifestyle, but its benefits extend beyond physical well-being. For seniors, in particular, regular exercise plays a pivotal role in maintaining and improving mental health. As we age, the risk of mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety can increase, making it essential to incorporate physical activities that promote emotional well-being. 

Astoria’s senior living memory care in Omaha understands that more than anyone. Mental and physical well-being are so intricately linked, and we know that seniors need support in both areas more than ever. 

Here are five physical exercises that may help your senior loved one feel better on the inside and out:

1. Walking

Walking is perhaps the most accessible and versatile exercise for seniors. It requires no special equipment, can be done almost anywhere, and can be adapted to various fitness levels. The mental health benefits of walking are numerous and include things like stress reduction, improved mood, and better social engagement. 

A brisk walk helps reduce stress by promoting the release of endorphins, the body’s natural mood lifters. It also encourages relaxation and deep breathing. Plus, regular walks in natural settings, such as parks or nature trails, can enhance mood and reduce symptoms of depression. The combination of fresh air and gentle exercise provides a sense of calm and well-being.

The best part? It’s easy to start a walking routine with a friend. Walking with a friend or participating in group walking programs fosters social interaction, reducing feelings of loneliness and isolation.

To get started with a walking routine, seniors should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity walking per week, as recommended by health experts. Gradually increasing the duration and intensity of walks can lead to even greater mental health benefits. Of course, you should always do what’s best for you and your loved one’s health.

2. Yoga

Yoga is an ancient practice that combines physical postures, breathing exercises, and mindfulness. It is particularly well-suited for seniors due to its gentle and adaptable nature. 

Yoga promotes relaxation and stress reduction through controlled breathing techniques and mindfulness exercises. It encourages a calm and centered state of mind, which promotes reduced stress. Regular yoga practice can alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety by increasing the production of brain chemicals associated with positive mood.

Additionally, yoga has been shown to improve memory, attention, and overall cognitive function, which can help seniors maintain mental sharpness as they age. This is why it’s a welcome addition to Astoria’s senior living memory care in Omaha. You never know who may benefit in more ways than one from something as simple as yoga!

3. Tai Chi

Tai Chi, often described as “meditation in motion,” is an ancient Chinese martial art known for its gentle, flowing movements. It has gained popularity among seniors for its numerous mental health benefits, and is a favorite to teach in senior living communities all across the country. 

Tai Chi’s slow, deliberate movements and focus on deep breathing create a sense of relaxation and inner peace, reducing stress levels. Additionally, regular practice of Tai Chi has been linked to reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety. The meditative aspect of Tai Chi promotes emotional well-being.

The practice of Tai Chi improves balance and reduces the risk of falls, which can boost seniors’ confidence and reduce anxiety about physical safety. For seniors who are concerned with getting started, Tai Chi is easily adaptable to many different mobility and balance levels, allowing anyone who is interested to join!

A couple living at the senior living memory care in Omaha practice tai chi

4. Dancing

Dancing is a fun and social way for seniors to stay physically active while reaping significant mental health benefits. For example, dancing releases endorphins and triggers a sense of joy and happiness. It can be an effective tool for reducing symptoms of depression.

On top of that, participating in dance classes or social dance events promotes social interaction, reducing feelings of isolation and loneliness, and learning and remembering dance steps and routines can challenge the mind, promoting cognitive function and memory.

There are various dance styles to choose from, including ballroom, line dancing, and Zumba. Seniors should select a style that aligns with their interests and physical capabilities, and they can participate in group dance classes or enjoy dancing at home to their favorite music.

5. Resistance Training

While cardiovascular exercises like walking and dancing are vital for mental health, don’t overlook the importance of resistance training for seniors. Strength training has its unique mental health benefits!

As seniors gain strength and improve their physical capabilities, it can boost their self-esteem and sense of accomplishment. For seniors who may struggle with a sense of purpose, this could be a game changer for their mental health! On top of that, resistance training provides an outlet for stress and frustration, helping seniors manage daily life’s challenges more effectively.

Resistance training can include exercises using resistance bands, dumbbells, or even bodyweight exercises like squats and push-ups. It’s essential to start with appropriate weights and seek guidance from a fitness professional to ensure safe and effective workouts. Not every senior will be able to do resistance training, but it’s always worth a shot!

Understanding Senior Mental Health at Senior Living Memory Care in Omaha

Incorporating regular physical exercise into a senior’s routine can be a transformative step in promoting mental health and overall well-being. Whether it’s the simplicity of walking, the mindfulness of yoga, or the strength-building benefits of resistance training, there are numerous avenues for seniors to explore. Once you’re able to find something that your senior loved one truly enjoys, encourage them to stick with it! They’ll be able to build up both their physical and mental health, make new friends, and enjoy a great new hobby. 

Here at Astoria, we’re happy to help our seniors in senior living memory care in Omaha find a workout program that truly works for them and makes them happy. If you’re interested in seeing what we can do for your senior loved one, contact us for more information today!