Benefits of Physical Exercise for Depression in the Elderly

2nd January 2020
Depression is one of the worst illnesses that affect the elderly. There are some very healthy habits that can help mitigate its effects. Performing physical exercise on a daily basis is one of them. 

Aging is a process that affects all living beings. It’s characterized by the integral decline of the body with consequences that accentuate over time. Among these, depression is one of the most worrisome. Although there are several triggers, there are also different alternatives to deal with it. Physical exercise is one of the most efficient.

Old age: physical exercise for depression

The beginning of old age is difficult to identify. It changes over time as life expectancy increases. This progress is possible as a result of improvements in the health conditions of human beings.

Lots of people over 65 participate in various productive activities without major limitations: studies, research, jobs, among others. In turn, they support younger family members in their process of growth and social strengthening.

Nonetheless, negative stereotypes regarding old age are still maintained. One of these is that elderly people lose the possibility of being useful. Consequently, they become a burden or dead weight and, at times, they’re the subject of discrimination.

Depression or sadness in older adults

Depression is a mental disorder that isn’t part of the development of aging human beings. It’s a disease that can appear at any age. However, it’s common to observe it in older adults due to the physical deterioration processes that they face and what it represents. 

Affective support is helpful for people who are depressive or deeply sad. Moreover, medical service and psychological support are important.

Another good habit is the practice of adequate physical exercise, which allows them to maintain their well-being and a sense of satisfaction for the achievements that it entails.

Physical exercise is a great habit for elderly people.

Physical exercise and its advantages to prevent depression

Elderly people who maintain their muscular strength have greater autonomy, quality of life, and joy. Hence, the risks of suffering depression decrease considerably. Consequently, physical activity increases the benefits regarding the integral health of each person.

Physical activity provides greater blood flow, which, at the same time, stimulates the ability to transport the nutrients that sustain the body.

Likewise, it regulates the levels of neurotransmitters and facilitates the recovery of neurons. In short, the brain will be better nourished.

Older people with depression have problems with their levels of norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine; which are neurotransmitters that control the sense of humor. A training routine helps to stimulate mental processes and improve their emotional state, as a complement to medical treatments.

On the other hand, physical exercise allows an optimal elimination of toxins that hinder our metabolism. This is another factor that’s positively reflected in everyday activities. An example of this is the possibility of maintaining a better balance when walking and being able to move more safely.

More benefits of physical exercise for depression

As people become older, a deterioration of the body takes place that also affects their mental health. This situation can be clearly observed in the musculoskeletal system. There’s a loss of bone mass, the internal part decreases and becomes porous. However, all of this can be prevented.

Exercises can help prevent depression.

The joints are another important aspect. The cells responsible for regenerating their tissues lose their capacity, which causes stiffness that hinders the movement of the body. To avoid these inconveniences, swimming is an excellent exercise since it helps the flexibility and mobility of the limbs.

Additionally, one of the problems that can occur with older adults is sarcopenia; that is, the loss of muscle mass. This decreases strength, power, and endurance, which results in fatigue and tiredness. Falling also occurs, along with the risk this entails for the integrity of a person.

Finally, if all the above wasn’t enough, physical exercise also favors the elderly by reducing stress and difficulties related to insomnia.

As we can see, if the elderly integrate physical exercise into their daily activities, enjoying this stage of life will be much more pleasant. It’ll be a decision they won’t regret!

  • Sociedad Española de Geriatría y Gerontología. Guía de ejercicio físico para personas mayores. Extraído de: https://www.segg.es/media/descargas/Acreditacion%20de%20Calidad%20SEGG/CentrosDia/GU%C3%8DA%20DE%20EJERCICIO%20F%C3%8DSICO%20PARA%20MAYORES.pdf
  • José Alberto Ávila-Funes; Emilio José García-Mayo. 2004. Beneficios de la práctica del ejercicio en los ancianos. Extraído de: http://www.scielo.org.mx/pdf/gmm/v140n4/v140n4a13.pdf