Staying physically fit after age 50 will help improve your health as you age, of course. But it can also benefit your body, mind and wallet in ways you might not realize.
For example, Suzette Pereira, a research scientist specializing in muscle health and aging, tells Money Talks News that maintaining muscle health can also help improve energy levels, decrease the risk of fractures and speed up recovery from illnesses.
Following are powerful potential benefits of staying in shape in your 50s and well beyond that you might not have considered.
Just remember to visit your doctor for a checkup before beginning a fitness program, and ease into any exercise routine to avoid injuries.
1. Thinking more clearly
In addition to building muscles, exercise can help improve brain function.
“Generally, exercise has been shown to improve mood and sleep and reduce stress and anxiety, all of which can indirectly help with overall cognitive function,” says Pereira, who works at Abbott Laboratories, a manufacturer of medical devices and nutrition products.
2. Spending less on medical care
The average retiree household spends $6,800 a year on health care. But sticking to a regular exercise regimen can improve your health, meaning you may be able to spend less time and money at the doctor’s office.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the well-known academic medical center based in Rochester, Minnesota, regular exercise helps prevent or manage a wide range of health problems. They include:
- High blood pressure
- Many types of cancer
3. Saving money on life insurance
If you can stay fit, you also may save money on life insurance, since underwriters generally base policy costs on your risk of death.
Being overweight, for example, can result in higher rates. Maintaining a healthy weight and strong vital signs could reduce your rate.
In 2018, John Hancock, one of the largest life insurance companies in North America, announced it would sell only policies that involve using wearable devices and smartphones to track a policyholder’s fitness and health data, Reuters reported.
4. Feeling happier
There is a strong connection between physical fitness and happiness. In addition to boosting your energy, exercise can elevate your mood.
Physical activity stimulates brain chemicals that can make you feel more relaxed and less anxious, the Mayo Clinic reports. As a bonus, you may feel better about your appearance, raising your self-esteem.
5. Reducing the loss of muscle and bone mass
With regular strength training, women can reduce the loss of bone and muscle mass that occurs as they age, according to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The age-related loss of muscle and bone mass is more pronounced in women than men, with menopause accelerating this decline. Weight-based exercises are particularly helpful in combating these conditions, which can compromise a woman’s ability to perform daily activities.
The phrase “use it or lose it” is correct when it comes to maintaining strong bones, muscles and joints, personal trainer and ballroom dancer Leon Turetsky tells Money Talks News.
6. Maintaining independence
According to the National Council on Aging, regular exercise can help older adults remain independent.
Certain types of exercise, such as tai chi, can even reduce your risk of falls — which the NCOA says are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries among older adults.
7. Living longer
Aerobic fitness is a powerful indicator of long-term mortality, and the more aerobic exercise you do, the greater the benefit.
Just three hours a week of regular exercise may potentially extend life by as much as five years, according to the University of Southern California’s Leonard Davis School of Gerontology.
On the other hand, not exercising creates a risk of premature death that’s equal to or worse than cardiovascular disease, diabetes or smoking, according to a large study published in 2018 in JAMA Network Open.
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