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Why Regular Exercise Is Essential for Aging Well

seniors exercise
by Ellen Blake

Exercise has mental and emotional health benefits for all age groups, but the benefits are greatest for those aged 45 and older.

In fact, U.S. adults aged 65 and older who report exercising 30+ minutes at least 3 days per week are 32% more likely to have high optimism than those who do not exercise. Compare that to only a 6% increase for those younger than 30 who engage in regular exercise vs those who do not.  Why are the benefits greatest for older adults? It could be because this population often has slowing metabolisms and deteriorating physical health, which gives exercise more opportunity to make an impact.

These results are based on interviews with 270,000 U.S. adults between January 2, 2016- July 20, 2017 as part of the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index. To measure Americans’ future life optimism, respondents were asked to rate their life “five years from now” from zero to 10, based on the Cantril Self-Anchoring Striving Scale. Those rating their future life an 8 or higher are considered highly optimistic. The results also showed that future life ratings, regardless of exercise level, drop steadily as age increases — but regular exercise greatly reduces this pattern.

Exercise and positive emotional health outcomes are closely related, particularly in seniors. Not only is it likely that those who exercise regularly get mental health benefits that help ward off depression, but those who are already depressed may have less motivation to exercise than those who are not. The importance of exercise to improve one’s positive emotional health cannot be overstated.

The Gallop and Sharecare research shows there are many benefits to regular exercise in addition to a positive outlook. These benefits include a lower risk of chronic disease such as obesity, diabetes, depression and stress, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and heart attack.

For older Americans, exercise is more closely tied to health than diet or smoking.

We need to work harder to implement programs that educate older Americans about exercise in communities. And we need to make it easier and safer for them to do so This requires us to invest in infrastructures that support active living to help seniors reap its benefits.

We’ve all heard working out can have positive effects far beyond the gym – I’ve listed a my top 8 below:


1. Reduce stress

2. Boost happy chemicals

3. Improve self-confidence

4. Enjoy the great outdoors

6. Alleviate anxiety

7. Boost brainpower

8. Increase relaxation

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