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senior exercise

 All Roads Point To The Y for Senior Health and Longevity
Megan McCuen, Director of Group Wellness and Engagement & Veterans Wellness Program Coordinator

While I teach all levels of fitness, I spend much of my time leading health and wellness classes with our active older adults at YMCA of Bucks and Hunterdon Counties. I lead our Veterans Wellness Pathway Program, and teach Silver Sneakers programs at our Quakertown branch that I stream to our virtual wellness platform, Y Wellness 24/7, where I have recorded over 850 classes available on-demand. Every day I see our older adults lifting, stretching, jumping, pulling and pushing their way to feeling stronger and happier. And when we do it together, it is that much more effective and fun! 

Simply put, regular physical activity is vital to improving one's chances of living longer, and enjoying an enhanced quality of life during those years. Research demonstrates that active seniors who engage in fitness, improve their wellness in mind, body and spirit.

It’s all interconnected. Increased heart rate during exercise intervals increases blood flow, lung capacity and general cardiovascular fitness. Building muscle as a result of strength training also has short and long-range benefits to heart health and the body’s metabolism. The physical benefits of exercise throughout adult life should not come as a surprise to readers. As a matter of fact, research shows that the current recommendation for adults is to exercise most days of the week with a goal of 17 to 150 minutes of moderate  physical activity (walking, jogging, yoga, tai chi, etc.) can increase one’s life expectancy by one to five years! 

However, what is becoming more understood are the mental and emotional benefits of regular exercise in the senior years. For example, a recent study in Scientific American found that different kinds of exercise impacted different aspects of mental acuity. Just as different types of exercise affect our bodies distinctly — think about how long distance running can strengthen your heart and legs, while bicep curls beef up your arms — they can also affect our brains in different ways.

The article explains people who'd just completed a rigorous workout — such as high-intensity interval training — were particularly good at "spatial learning," or recalling where something was, while people who had done a lower-intensity workout, such as a walk, were good at "naturalistic recall," or remembering details of a story. Exercise simply helps our brains function better.

So next time you can't find your keys, do a fast-paced round of jumping jacks. If you can't remember what your friend told you yesterday, maybe go for a walk. It's worth a try!

And physical exercise is more impactful when we come together in one place for it, like at the Y!  Study upon study reports that social isolation in older populations can lead to higher occurrences of degenerative brain conditions such as Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Conversely, staying social, meeting with friends and family regularly, and learning to navigate and enjoy social media and remote connections are shown to aid in putting off the risks of developing those debilitating brain conditions. 

Our seniors who come into the Y for Silver Sneakers classes are like one big, warm, inclusive club of men and women excited to be together to celebrate each other’s lives and well-being. Many have formed friendships outside of the Y. The same goes for our online, Y Wellness 24/7 community. Those folks enjoy the same classes I teach in person, and although they may be at home taking the class, they know they are part of our family of YMCA active seniors!

megan mccuenAbout the Author
Megan McCuen instructs wellness classes for all fitness levels out of the Quakertown and Doylestown branches of YMCA of Bucks and Hunterdon Counties. Megan is also the recipient of the 2022 Instructor of the Year Award by Burnalong, which powers the Y Wellness 24/7 online wellness platform.




Cassata, Cathy. (2019, Sept. 20). Why It’s Important to Stay Social as You Age - and 5 Ways to Do it. Healthline.

Manning, J.R., Notaro, G.M., Chen, E. et al. Fitness tracking reveals task-specific associations between memory, mental health, and physical activity. Sci Rep 12, 13822 (2022).

Podewitz, Julie. (2019, Sept. 16) Study: An Active Senior Lifestyle Adds 5 Years to Your Life. Vitality Living.


Category: blog