Why Cardiovascular Health is Important

Exercise is important at every age but maintaining a consistent exercise routine as we get older can help keep us independent for longer. Studies have suggested that physical activity, such as cardiovascular exercise, is the number one contributor to longevity. In addition to helping us live long and independent lives, exercise, in general, helps maintain weight, reduce the impact of chronic diseases, improve immune and digestive functioning, regulate blood pressure, lower the risk of obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and even some cancers. Older adults are more at risk of living sedentary lives, especially as they undergo physical changes that might make exercise seem more challenging. However, by making an exercise plan that fits your needs and modifying exercises to fit your abilities, exercise can be a part of your life at every age.

How Much Exercise Does an Older Adult Need?

According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, physical activity needs to change as we age. Older adults need 150 minutes, or 2.5 hours a week, of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, such as cardio. Just 30 minutes of physical activity can be physically and mentally beneficial for older adults. The guideline also suggests that older adults practice muscle-strengthening exercises two days a week and three days of cardiovascular exercises, such as walking or dancing. As we age, it’s normal to lose muscle mass and bone density, however, physical exercise can help reduce the risk of these conditions.

Benefits of Cardiovascular Exercise for Older Adults

While all types of physical activity are beneficial for our overall health, cardiovascular exercises have special benefits for older adults. Exercise can help older adults manage their blood pressure, improve bone and joint health and preserve their long-term cognitive function. Here are a few benefits that come with maintaining a consistent cardiovascular exercise practice:

Improved Immune Function. Our immune systems help fight off illnesses and protect us from diseases. A healthy immune system will also help heal our bodies from illnesses more quickly. According to Harvard Health, exercise can promote good circulation, which allows the cells that make up the immune system to move throughout the body more freely and more efficiently.
Enhanced Respiratory and Cardiovascular Function. According to the American Lung Association, regular exercise helps strengthen your lungs and heart. As we exercise, oxygen gets infiltrated into the bloodstream, transporting it to our muscles. As our exercise routines become more consistent, our bodies become more efficient at oxygenating our muscles.
Increased Bone Strength. Just as our muscles respond to exercise by getting stronger, so do our bones. Older adults are more at risk of losing bone density and developing osteoporosis. However, regular cardiovascular exercise can help strengthen our bones and reduce the risk of losing bone mass and developing osteoporosis. Exercising for bone strength can also help reduce the risk of falls and decrease the recovery time from a fall-related injury.
Decreased Risk of Chronic Illnesses. According to the Mayo Clinic, aerobic exercise can help decrease the risk of developing a chronic illness and help manage symptoms of an existing illness. Low impact exercises can help improve muscle function for those with lower back pain, while those suffering from arthritis can reduce pain and stiffness through cardiovascular exercises. Also, exercise can help improve the quality of life for those with cancer and lower the risk of dying from breast, colorectal, and prostate cancers.
Improved Gastrointestinal Function. Regular cardiovascular exercise can help boost metabolism, regulate the elimination of waste and encourage overall digestive health. Those suffering from slow digestion and constipation often find relief when implementing a consistent exercise regimen.

Types of Cardiovascular Exercises for Seniors

As our physical abilities change as we age, it’s important to make adaptations in our exercise routines to decrease the risk of injury and promote overall safety. Incorporating cardiovascular exercises into your routine doesn’t have to be as challenging as it sounds. Here are a few cardiovascular exercises that can be added to your fitness routine:

Ballroom Dancing
Dancing in general is a great way to get your heart rate up, build muscle and strengthen bones. Ballroom dancing, however, has become popular among older adults because of its ability to strengthen cognitive function. Remembering steps and the fast-paced movements keep our brains sharp and help with balance and coordination, which can protect us from fall-related injuries.

Water Aerobics

Water aerobics classes can help older adults reap the benefits of cardiovascular exercise without putting much impact on bones and joints. Practicing aerobic exercises in the pool can provide more resistance to add a strength-training element to this exercise as well.

Swimming

If you prefer independent exercise, as opposed to group activities, swimming laps can be a great alternative. Swimming can help build lung capacity, build endurance, muscle strength, and promote heart health.

Recumbent Biking

Biking is also a low-impact exercise, which is a great activity for older adults. For those who struggle with balance and coordination, or who prefer a safer activity, recumbent bikes can provide all the benefits of traditional cycling without the risk of injury or falling.

Making an Exercise Plan that Fits Your Lifestyle

Establishing an exercise routine can feel challenging, especially for those new to exercise. However, following a few simple steps can make your cardio routine a reality. First, start by choosing an activity that you find interesting, fun, and that will raise your heart rate. Choose the length of your workout, starting with just 20 minutes if you are doing something new or haven’t exercised for some time.

And, lastly, set your workout schedule each week, choosing the days you will exercise and at which time during the day. Sticking to this schedule will help you be consistent and allow you to establish a routine without having to make hard decisions each day. As you get into your routine, you might consider setting goals for yourself such as exercising three days a week or adding a new level of intensity after a month of consistent exercise. As always, it’s important to consult with your doctor before adding a new exercise to your routine or adding levels of intensity.

Keeping Up with Cardio at Maplewood Senior Living

At Maplewood Senior Living, we know how important cardiovascular exercise is to the overall health of our residents. Each of our facilities comes with a robust workout and wellness facility that offers group and private classes. To learn more about our facilities or to schedule a tour, please contact us.

How Much Do You Know About the Health of Your Aging Parents?

As the baby boomer population begins to reach and surpass the age of 65, their adult children find themselves more concerned with the health of their aging parents than ever before. According to an article published by U.S. News, nearly 13 percent of the U.S. population is age 65 or older, and that proportion is predicted to increase to 18 percent by 2030. As the baby boomers continue on in their retirement years, many of them will require additional care, either in their homes or at a retirement community. While some adult children act as their parent’s caregivers, many of them are navigating changes in their parent’s health from afar.

While caregiving has its challenges, so does maintaining a long-distance relationship with an aging parent. It’s not uncommon for adult children to be surprised with their parent’s condition after going a long period of time in between visits. It’s especially common for an adult child to wonder why their parent never asked for help. While navigating senior health is different for every family, there are a few common themes to keep in mind.

Senior Health: Why Your Aging Parents Aren’t Asking for Help

It’s normal for older adults to experience signs of aging like stiff joints and or muscle weakness. However, after time these aging-related symptoms can make it difficult to complete daily tasks. While it might seem obvious to ask for help, there are a number of reasons your aging parents might not be telling you the whole truth about the state of their health:

They are experiencing cognitive changes
If your parent is developing symptoms of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, they might not realize that their health and safety are being compromised. In addition, it’s not uncommon for adults experiencing cognitive changes to hide their symptoms from their loved ones, especially their children.

They are in denial
We are hard-wired to be able to rationalize any situation. Even if your parent is experiencing changes in their health, they might be in denial that there’s actually a problem. For example, if your parent is having more trouble driving than normal, it’s not uncommon for them to blame others around them.
They are afraid of losing their independence
You parent might be nervous about the consequences their declining health will have on the quality of their life. They might fear losing their homes, their cars, and their overall autonomy.

Senior Health: How to Recognize Problems

If you do notice a health decline in your aging parent, or are unsure if what you’re seeing is a normal sign of aging, here is a list of warning signs to look for published by the Mayo Clinic:

• Your aging parent might be experiencing memory loss if they ask the same questions repeatedly without remembering the answer. If you notice bills going unpaid, rotting food in the refrigerator, or if your parent is forgetting their weekly routine, like going to a workout class or regular appointment, they could be displaying signs of cognitive decline.

• Losing weight without trying to could be a sign that something isn’t right at home. Weight loss could be attributed to loss of dexterity resulting in the inability to cook for themselves, loss of appetite and energy, or difficulty getting to and from the grocery store.

• A lack of energy or depressed behavior is a sign that your parent might be having a problem. If you notice your parent has stopped talking about their friends or hobbies, you might consider asking them about it or approaching their healthcare provider with your concern.

• Losing balance is common in older adults. However, if you notice excessive bruising and scraping, it could indicate that your parent has been falling and should be examined for a balance or mobility problem.

• Your aging parent might be having trouble taking care of themselves if you notice a lack of hygiene, like bathing and brushing teeth. In addition, if you notice your parent is neglecting housework or doing laundry, these could be signs of cognitive decline or other health concerns.

Senior Health: What’s Next?

Knowing how to react once you’ve noticed a decline in your parent’s health can be extremely challenging. Fortunately, the National Institute on Aging published a variety of steps you can take to ensure your parent’s wellbeing, no matter the distance.

Assess your aging parent’s needs
Most importantly, you should start with assessing your parent’s most immediate need. You might consider assessing their current situation by asking questions like, “where can my parent use the most support?” or “how can mom or dad use support while completing basic daily tasks?” Starting here can help guide your next steps.

Communicate strategically
Navigating the health concerns that can come with aging is scary for everyone involved, including your parent. It’s important to communicate in a way that will be well received. Take into account your parent’s cognitive situation and plan your conversation from there. Always remember to reassure your parent that the conversation is stemming from a place of love and concern.

Address any safety issues
When it comes to monitoring your parent’s health, their safety is definitely a priority. If your parent is still living alone, you might consider evaluating their home for fall-risks and ensure they have the proper tools, like safety bars in the restroom.

Explore your options
Once you’ve determined your parent’s needs, the next step is to explore all of your senior health options. Whether this means researching nearby assisted living or memory care communities or looking for in-home help, it’s important to do your research before making a decision.

Explore Options for Aging Parents at Maplewood Senior Living

At Maplewood Senior Living, we know you want the best for your aging parents. That’s why we offer care and support for every stage of life, ensuring your loved ones live a high-quality life throughout their retirement years. If you’re still unsure of your parents’ health needs, you might consider taking this quiz, or reach out to one of our staff members to learn more about our communities.