Psychological Benefits of Fitness After Fifty

by Barry Hill

As we reach our ‘next fifty’, physical activity and exercise become more and more vital for our health, length, and quality of life. Consistent exercise and a healthy diet do more than just strengthen muscles and improve our ability to be physically active, however – there are lots of mental and psychological benefits of fitness after fifty…

Exercising helps to trigger endorphins, which help you to manage your anxiety and stress levels and overall, improves your mood. Regular physical activity can also lessen feelings and symptom of depression. According to a study done in the state of Michigan, “Physical activity has consistently been shown to have positive effects on various measures of mental health. Most well-documented are the effects of aerobic exercise in improving depression, reducing anxiety and improving mood.”

old man exercising

Photo from here, labeled for reuse.

In addition to the more short term benefits of fitness after fifty, for your emotional health and happiness, your long-term mental health is aided through consistent exercise. Your ability to multi-task, plan, problem-solve and master other forms of cognitive function (including memory) can be stimulated and enhanced by consistent exercise.

“There’s a lot you can do to prevent cognitive decline, or slow it down, or recover memory function that you might feel you have lost,” according to Dr. John Ratey, associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. The areas of your brain that are related to memory function are stimulated through exercise, creating a chemical (brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF) that re-wires your memory pathways to make them function more efficiently.

In his book Brain Rules, John Medina notes that aerobic exercise just twice a week halves your risk of general dementia. It cuts your risk of Alzheimer’s by 60 percent. He concludes that to improve our thinking skills at ant age we need to move… a lot.

According to the Geriatric Mental Health Foundation, many recent studies have proven that most of the things that we do to maintain our physical health also benefit our mental health. Exercise helps our memory and mental ability, prevents dementia, improves our mood and energy levels – all by decreasing blood pressure and cholesterol, improving heart health and mobility, and more.

In what ways have you found exercise and fitness to benefit your mental and emotional health? Please share your experience with the Fit After Fifty Facebook community!

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