HOW DOES PHYSICAL EXERCISE BENEFIT MENTAL HEALTH IN THE ELDERLY?

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Ageing, a beautiful period of our human life, poses some unique challenges. Due to several reasons like lack of independence, frailty, illness, separation, isolation, and simply due to their age, among other reasons, older people are at disproportionately higher risk of suffering from mental health problems.

It is estimated that more than 20%, aged 60 and above have some mental health problem, especially depression, anxiety and other psychological problems, which results in severe disability and severe reduction in quality of life.

What is further noteworthy for all age groups, but especially so for the older adults, is that physical health has an impact on mental health just like mental health has an impact on physical health. Therefore, along with a continued focus on extending their life expectancy, it is also necessary to understand the strategies to maintain sound mental health and wellbeing in older adults.

In Asian and non Asian countries, older adults who exercise regularly have lower rates of getting any kind of mental illness It is shown in multiple studies that  people who exercise regularly, develop a new sense of identity with higher self esteem, sense of better well being and good quality of life. There are various hypothesis- physiological. psychological, inflammatory related to the effect of PA on mental health

Moreover, exercise also helps in treating anxiety and depression Physical activity is considered to be as effective a treatment as psychotherapy or medications. When exercise was used as a method of intervention, sleep quality improved significantly in the form of lesser time to sleep and more refreshing deep sleep.

Many people believe that with growing age, the exercise loses its effect. Hence, there is no need for elderly people to strain their bodies. Exercise benefits mental health at every age.

Benefits of physical activity in elders:

  • Helps you to sleep better
  • Helps to Maintain the Level of Chemicals in Brain which in turn helps in overall well being
  • Boosts energy level and fight fatigue
  • Makes you happier and boosts positivity by the release of happy hormones
  • Reduces the risk of developing dementia

Overall, multiple studies using various physical exercise intervention have uniformly shown that mental health substantially improves with adequate physical activity. So, why not you try it and take care of your mental health? Age can’t stop you!!  

Dr.Pradeep Palaniappan
Dr.Pradeep Palaniappan

M.D (Psy) (NIMHANS)
Associate Professor, Dept. of Psychiatry, PSG Institute of Medical Science and Research (PSG IMSR),
Coimbatore