Exercise for Aging Parents: The Fountain of Youth

By Tasha McRae

They say a parent will always worry about their children regardless of their age. But there comes a time in a child’s life, somewhere in their 30s or 40s, where the balance starts to tip, and we find ourselves worrying about our parents more than they need to worry about us. With advances in age, we may notice changes in mobility, balance, energy, and cognition that prevent our parents from living their lives to the fullest. Baby boomers, more so than any other generation, value independent living and the ability to live life the way they always dreamed. A full life is being able to care for their grandchildren, to travel without worry, and to contribute meaningfully to their communities. One of the most powerful ways we can help our parents stay young and vibrant is to encourage them to stay active, physically, and socially.

The benefit of physical activity for seniors is indisputable. Getting Mom and Dad moving is one of the best ways to keep them feeling young. As we age, our risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes increases. Regular physical activity is one of the best ways to protect ourselves against these diseases of aging. Additionally, an exercise program, including weight training, is a powerful way to protect bones and improve balance, which can reduce falls risk. Falling can not only lead to serious injury, including death, but it also creates a sense of vulnerability, which can limit quality of life.

Research supports exercise as a way to maintain a strong mind as well as strong muscles. Exercise has been linked to improved memory and cognition in seniors. In fact, cognitive benefits can be seen after even one bout of exercise. High fitness levels have been linked with delayed onset of dementia by up to as much as ten years. Furthermore, exercising with others can help our parents maintain an active social life and decrease the risk of social isolation. This can give our parents an opportunity to create new social networks in a phase of life where it may be more difficult to meet new people.

Getting moving can be intimidating for many seniors, especially if they have a pre-existing health condition. Working with a Clinical Exercise Physiologist can ensure their exercise program is safe and effective. A clinical exercise professional has the expertise to work with a variety of health conditions and take considerations, such as medications, into account when choosing the right exercises. Over the past nine years, we have seen thousands of people aged 55+ reclaim their health and vitality through exercise and healthy living. It is a pure delight when we hear a member say, “I can do things today that I couldn’t do before. I can keep up with my grandkids!”

Give your parents the gift of health by talking to them about their exercise habits. If you’re struggling to convince your parents of the powerful benefits of exercise, we would love to help. We are experts in getting older adults motivated to move, so feel free to contact us for a tour or consultation. Together we can inspire our parent’s generation to take control of their health so they can live life to the fullest.

This article is inspired by my mom Carol (age 60) and dad Andy (age 63) who are committed to staying fit and active as they age.

Tasha McRae, BHK, ACSM, CES/CET, is a certified exercise physiologist and Director of Culture & Talent at LIVE WELL Exercise Clinic