Fitness for Well-Being: How Exercise Influences Mental Health in Older Adults


Exercise is an integral part of a healthy lifestyle. When we think about the benefits of exercise, we often consider its effect on our bodies, including increased muscle strength and bone density, weight loss, improved cardiovascular health and better balance. However, we don’t always consider the mental health benefits associated with exercise. 

While exercise most obviously strengthens our muscles, the mental health benefits provided are numerous, making exercise a worthwhile solution for older adults who struggle with mental health or those simply looking for a mood booster. 

These factors are important at any age but are particularly helpful as we age. Here at Seasons Retirement Communities, we encourage our residents to engage in fun activities promoting healthy and active aging. Below, we’ve listed a few ways exercise can improve mental health for older adults. 


5 mental health benefits of exercise 


Here are some reasons to encourage your loved one to get active and reasons to join them, too!

Important note: For safety, always make sure your loved one consults their doctor or health care provider before starting a new exercise regimen. 


1. Reduced stress, depression and PTSD symptoms 


Get moving and get happy! Exercise has been scientifically proven to release feel-good hormones called endorphins that relieve feelings of anxiety and stress. Aging can be stressful for many people, but maintaining healthy habits can bring comfort and fulfillment. 

This phenomenon is particularly true for former athletes, who may feel discouraged about no longer being able to do everything they used to. Incorporating regular exercise into their routines can spark a sense of familiarity and inspire them to challenge themselves further. Even for non-athletes, exercise is a major stress reliever – it gives you an outlet to burn off steam (literally!). 

For those who struggle with PTSD or trauma from the loss of a loved one or another traumatic event, exercise can give individuals something to focus on other than their pain. 

Not all exercise has to be strenuous and labour-intensive, like lifting heavy weights. Walking is a great way to get your blood pumping and get fresh air at the same time. 


2. Opportunity for routine and social interaction 


Human beings are naturally drawn to forming habits. For many retirees, a lack of daily structure and routine can be unnerving and may contribute to feelings of anxiety or depression. Exercise can restore and reestablish a sense of routine, habit and motivation for your loved one to look forward to, giving them something to schedule their day or week around. 

In addition to the lack of daily structure, many find retirement incredibly isolating. Exercise, in that case, can bring back a sense of community. Encourage your parents, grandparents, or loved ones to join a fitness class or walk/bike ride with friends to stay active and social. You can even join in and invite the family for quality time together. 

Here at Seasons Retirement Communities, we have a variety of programs and classes available for our residents. Residents can make new friends or connect with old ones, all while contributing positively to their overall well-being. 


3. More confidence and safety at home 


There’s nothing like confidence and independence in your own home. For some seniors, security and safety at home can be a big issue, as older individuals are more likely to injure themselves in a fall or accident. This lack of security often makes family members worry when loved ones are left alone. 

Exercise can ease these concerns by increasing muscle strength, balance and agility. A stronger body can help prevent falling in the first place and make it easier to recover if a fall does occur.

With regular exercise – strength training, cardio and stretching – your loved one will feel stronger and more confident, giving you and your loved ones peace of mind. 


4. Physical activity can improve cognitive function.  


Research has shown a link between better cognition and exercise for seniors. More oxygen and blood flow to the brain improves concentration, memory and attention span. Exercise, especially activities involving coordination and communication, can help reduce the risks of cognitive decline.  

The mental health benefits aren’t just linked to brain function; similar to declines in physical fitness for older athletes, declines in cognitive health can cause anxiety for older people. While some declines are a natural part of aging, it can still be discouraging and isolating for some. Maintaining cognitive health through exercise can help seniors boost their mood and confidence. 

Important note: While some cognitive issues, like dementia, are not always preventable, exercise can help put your loved one in the best position to age as well as they can. 


5. Better mood during the day, better sleep at night 


Endorphins help improve our mood and overall outlook on life while we’re awake, and because of that, exercise is also linked to better rest and sleep.  

Quality sleep is essential. Not getting enough sleep can make handling regular activities at any age more challenging. With a rested body and mind, you’re more alert and more apt to face new things during waking hours. 

Working your body also means you’ll need more rest. Regular exercise can contribute to better sleep because the body recovers while you rest. If your parent, grandparent or loved one has trouble sleeping at night, try increasing their exercise level during the day.


How to get your loved one moving 


Safety note: Be sure to consult a healthcare professional before attempting any new exercise routine, and never try anything you or your loved one feel unsafe doing. 

If you’re looking for ways to get your loved one moving, we’ve compiled some ideas below. Of course, be mindful of their ability and comfort level when planning activities, as exercise is only beneficial when it’s safe! 


  • Join a workout class or group: Many gyms offer senior discounts on classes, and it can be much less intimidating to enter a gym when surrounded by people with similar ability levels. You can even join them! 
  • Walking, hiking, and bike rides. These activities don’t require much planning or equipment; you can get the whole family together. Pick a scenic location, and you’re set! For something closer to home, you can walk around the neighbourhood, and if weather conditions are a concern, you can power walk through the shopping mall.
  • Exercise at home. Bodyweight exercises and stretching don’t typically require the gym and can be done at home. You can even set them up on YouTube to follow along with an exercise video. Just be careful not to do anything unsafe. 
  • Take part in available programs. At Seasons Retirement Communities, we proudly offer fitness classes for our residents at their convenience. They don’t even have to leave their building! 



Whether you’re 7 or 77, exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Not only is it great for physical strength, balance, and coordination, but it also has many mental health benefits. Encourage your loved one to incorporate regular exercise into their daily routine, and help them do it safely and effectively. 

Our team at Seasons Retirement Communities knows physical activity is crucial, and we work to ensure our residents have all they need to achieve a healthy lifestyle. Contact us if you would like to learn more about how we can support your loved one.  


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