(BPT) - When you think about exercise, you likely think about the physical health benefits of working out. Many Lehigh Valley residents exercise regularly to lose or maintain weight, improve muscle tone and strength, or increase flexibility.

For seniors, physical activity can help them stay mobile and, as a result, stay independent for longer. However, the benefits of exercise go beyond the physical and can potentially enrich your social life and mental state.

 

Staying social as you age

Loneliness is a common problem for seniors and can have serious consequences on their overall well-being. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than a quarter of adults over 65 are socially isolated. Older adults are more likely to live alone and lose friends and family as they age. The CDC also reports that social isolation in adults 50 or older has been associated with higher risks of dementia, depression, anxiety, and other health problems.

While these facts may be grim, there are many ways to combat loneliness, including group exercise. Health psychologist Kelly McGonigal, in her book The Joy of Movement, explains that endorphins (the feel-good hormone) released during exercise also help us bond with others. If you’ve ever played team sports or regularly attended yoga or other group fitness classes, you’ve probably felt a camaraderie with those around you.

Programs like SilverSneakers by Tivity Health offer many types of group activities that make a difference in the lives of seniors. The company’s 2021 Annual Member Survey revealed that 88% of members said that the program improved their quality of life and 52% made new and valuable friendships by participating.

To further improve seniors’ social engagement, the program has partnered with Stitch, the world’s largest social community helping older adults create enriching social connections. The platform is now available to SilverSneakers members in participating health plans and allows them to connect around shared interests, like traveling, books, and physical activities, virtually and in person.

Boost your brain health through exercise

Movement and activity can also improve your mood and prevent mental health and mood disorders. The SilverSneakers Annual member survey found that depression among participants is 64% less prevalent than the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services national benchmark.

Also, according to the CDC, regular physical activity can reduce the risk of cognitive decline—including dementia—and improves your ability to think, learn, and problem solve. This way, exercise works as a form of mental enrichment, an essential component of senior health.

Mental enrichment comes in many different forms, such as doing crossword puzzles or sudoku or learning a new hobby or activity. You can work out your muscles and your brain by taking up a new exercise class, such as Tai Chi, water aerobics, or dancing.

The virtual learning platform offers mental enrichment activities specifically designed for seniors, with a wide range of online classes through a video platform optimized for ease of use, user engagement, and social connection. Whether you want to learn how to meditate, try a new recipe, or understand the latest smart home technology, you have plenty of live interactive group class options to choose from.

Improving your quality of life doesn’t have to be difficult, and you don’t have to do it on your own. “This year, as we celebrate our 30th anniversary, we’re celebrating both our foundation in senior fitness and our expansion to a healthy lifestyle program that offers members a range of virtual and in-person opportunities to stay healthy and connected,” said Tivity Health president & CEO Richard Ashworth. “We know that health is more than physical, and we are proud to provide seniors with the tools to stay healthy both in person and at home.”

To find out if you’re one of the 18 million seniors nationwide eligible for SilverSneakers, visit www.silversneakers.com. To learn more about SilverSneakers and other programs available to members, visit Tools.SilverSneakers.com.

South Mountain Memory Care focuses on high-quality, personalized care, and the safest possible environment for your loved one. South Mountain Memory Care is proud to offer a wide range of resident-focused daily activity programming to our residents. Each neighborhood offers activity space for group and one-on-one activities.

The brand-new building is a stand-alone memory care community, meaning that the entire building, staff, and programs, are designed to serve residents with cognitive issues. To ensure person-centered care and attention, we have accommodations for up to 28 residents. The building is divided into two neighborhoods (wings), each offering 10 private suites and 2 semi-private suites. South Mountain Memory Care is located in the Allentown suburb of Emmaus, Pennsylvania, and is easily accessible from the Lehigh Valley, New Jersey, and Philadelphia. For more information, go to southmountainmemorycare.com.