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February is American Heart Month! Heart health is of great importance to seniors. Did you know that according to the American Heart Association, over 70% of seniors age 60-79 have some form of cardiovascular disease? Over age 80, that number jumps to 83% of men and 87% of women.
That’s why it is so important for seniors to look after their hearts.
In addition to diet, two of the most important factors for keeping seniors’ hearts healthy are exercise and stress reduction – and the two are related. Exercise keeps the heart strong and helps to reduce stress. Fortunately, there are an abundance of fitness programs for seniors, including many right here at FountainView.
Stress has a big impact on heart health. When you’re stressed or anxious, your heart beats faster and harder. Over the long term, it becomes more difficult for the heart rate to change: to slow down during day to day activities, and to speed up when needed during exercise or times of excitement.
Fortunately, exercise gives your heart practice speeding up and slowing down in the right way. You’ve heard of “muscle memory” for repetitive tasks like playing an instrument, typing, or riding a bike. Your heart has a memory, too, and it can be trained to speed up or slow down more efficiently.
Your heart is a muscle, and just like other muscles it can be strengthened, and it can learn!
When your heart learns to beat more efficiently, blood pressure generally comes down, which reduces the risk of serious concerns like heart attack and stroke. It also helps seniors have more energy and sleep better.
Exercise can be challenging for seniors. While younger adults may turn to walking, running, or cardio fitness classes, seniors may have obstacles due to arthritis or difficulty with balance.
That’s why swimming and water exercises [LINK to pool calendar] are such popular choices. These exercises help increase the heart rate and build strength with minimal impact on the joints and without the risk of falling.
Fortunately, advances in fitness equipment mean that seniors can get the best of all worlds of exercise. Here at FountainView, we have a special treadmill and exercise bike right in our pool! It turns out that good muscle memory in the heart is just like riding a bike – pool bike, that is!
Exercise helps with stress because of its effect on the body and the mind. When you exercise, the brain releases endorphins, which are the body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators. This is how even a vigorous workout brings a feeling of peace and calm. Exercise reduces stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, and also requires mental focus, which can help take the mind off of worries and troubles.
Plus, exercising with a group – like water aerobics – provides an opportunity for socialization and connection. For seniors especially, this is key to living a low-stress lifestyle.
Ready to dive in? See our pool fitness schedule here.
FountainView at College Road is a glatt kosher senior living community in Rockland County, NY.