SilverSneakers trainer Lionell Pate knows: The benefits of exercise for older adults go far beyond what you see in the mirror.
Exercise means different things to different people. For some, it’s taking a group fitness class or lifting weights in your basement, while others prefer walking around the neighborhood or chasing grandkids around the park. Whatever the method, working out is an excellent way to promote overall health and well-being.
Can exercise also help you lose weight? Yes. But focusing on weight loss as the primary perk tends to crowd out the other very considerable benefits of a regular exercise routine, says Lionell Pate, a SilverSneakers LIVE instructor based in Chicago.
“Exercise has intrinsic value. It’s about taking care of yourself,” he says. “Working out is good for you—mind, body, and soul.”
Here, Pate shares four reasons to commit to regular workouts that have nothing to do with torching calories or dropping pounds.
Reason #1: You’ll Protect Yourself from Future Injury
Regular exercise—particularly strength training—can make your muscles and bones stronger and improve joint health. All of this translates to helping you avoid injury, especially from falls and fractures.
“You have to understand how to move your body intentionally and push it to be its best,” Pate says. Exercise helps you do exactly that.
A related benefit: Being strong helps you maintain your independence, Pate says. If you’re able to move around safely and confidently on your own power, that’s mean you can shop for groceries, do chores, and groom yourself without needing help from anyone else.
Not sure where to begin? Our beginner’s guide to strength training will help you approach it in a safe, effective, and fun way.
Reason #2: You’ll Help Yourself Fight the Blues
“Working out releases brain chemicals that help you feel good,” Pate says. That’s great news for anyone, but especially for older adults with depression or those who may feel more isolated than ever due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he says.
Science agrees: Regular exercise may help prevent depression or relieve depression symptoms, according to the National Institute on Aging.
“Keeping up with exercise or having that awareness of taking care of your body can help you feel more positive,” Pate says. It doesn’t take much: a brisk walk outside, a game of tennis, or a group exercise class can all deliver a mental boost.
Bonus: When you’re feeling down, it can be hard to motivate yourself to leave the house to exercise. With virtual fitness classes designed for older adults, you can work out from the comfort of your home.
Reason #3: You’ll Be More Resilient
“I truly believe that having a healthy, fit body makes you better able to respond to life’s inevitable hardships,” Pate says.
Consider this: Regular physical activity can actually reduce your risk of early death from common health problems like heart disease and some cancers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And if you have a chronic condition like diabetes, staying active can help slow the progression of the disease.
But it’s not just physical protection from illness. “Fitness gives you the mental strength to deal with life’s ups and downs,” Pate says, whether it’s family difficulties, changes in your career, or something else. You learn to bend but not break when you need to be strong for yourself and to support the people you love, he adds.
Reason #4: You’ll Boost Your Self-Esteem
With SilverSneakers LIVE classes, participants can chat online between sessions. What Pate observes often makes him proud.
“It’s amazing to see how interactive they are and how they talk about the ways they’re improving,” he says. “I’ll see someone say, ‘I started out using six-pound weights, and now I’m using eight pounds!’”
Research backs up Pate’s observation. Studies show there’s a connection between exercise and self-esteem for older adults. The idea is that the more you do, the more you can do—and the better you feel about your (amazing) self. This confidence applies to what you do inside and outside of an exercise class.
Take Your Favorite SilverSneakers Classes Online!
SilverSneakers members can access live fitness classes and wellness workshops through SilverSneakers LIVE. See the latest schedule and RSVP for classes here.
Not a member? If you have a Medicare Plan, it may include SilverSneakers—at no additional cost. Check your eligibility instantly here.