Benefits of exercise for the elderly

Oct 3, 2008 at 12:11 p.m. ET

Many people give up exercise in the later stages of life. But a new study shows regular exercise can help the elderly improve their memory, and delay the onset of dementia. So to preserve your own memories or those of that special person in your life, try out these low-key activities with long-lasting effects. And, regardless of your age, be sure to encourage your friends and family to keep on exercising, too.

Elderly Woman Exercising

Walking works wonders

The study, released by researchers from the University of Melbourne, Australia and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, showed that those who took part in regular exercise – in this case, walking for 20 minutes a day – performed far better on memory and brain function tests than people who didn't.

Plus, exercise is an awesome way to treat arthritis. So, lace up your sneakers (for optimal comfort, be sure to find the perfect pair of shoes), and go stroll a flat route through your neighborhood or a well-groomed trail in the woods. Make it a social hour and take a loved one or friend.

Water aerobics is swimmingly good for you

It's no wonder that water aerobics is such a hit in retirement communities – the undulating motion of the water provides resistance while the low-impact moves are easy on arthritic joints and brittle bones.

If you can't make a water aerobics class, try aqua jogging. Simply, grab a flotation belt and walk along the bottom of the pool or tread water in the deep end (or check out these water moves).

Strength training builds muscle and metabolism

No one's ever too old for weight training. In fact, the average sedentary adult drops up to seven pounds of muscle but gains 20 pounds of fat per decade.

Strength exercises not only replace lost muscle, but they also get rid of fat stores and boost the metabolism, improving overall health. Rally an exercise buddy and share a pair of 2- to 5-pound dumbbells with a friend or relative and do a series of strength training exercises, like this Dumbbell Standing Curl:

Dumbbell Standing Curl
  • Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart.
  • Grip dumbbells with your palms facing up and hold your arms straight down with elbows locked firmly to your sides.
  • While exhaling, curl dumbbells upward slowly and in unison toward shoulders by flexing elbows until palms face the chest (but don't move your elbows forward).
  • While inhaling, lower dumbbells slowly and in unison to starting position.
  • Repeat for a total of 12 curls on each side – either alternating arms or doing both arms at the same time.

For a comprehensive fitness plan for the grandparent generation, check out the Grandparent Boot Camp.

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