The Social Benefits of Exercise
Getting older often means that our roles, and the ways in which we have always defined ourselves, can undergo some shifting. Children grow older, we retire from our jobs, and our social circle often undergoes change. All of these things can bring upon the need for seniors to find new ways to define their identities.
Women tend to define themselves by their relationships. As mothers, wives, and friends, women often derive a sense of purpose and satisfaction from their roles. As children get older they need less support, and thus for some women, their changing roles in the context of motherhood can affect their sense of purpose. Often, older seniors also have to deal with the loss of spouse, and of friends. In addition, activities which were previously done in context of these important social relationships are often abandoned.
While relationships are just as important to men as to women, men are more likely to define themselves by their work. Therefore, retirement from a meaningful job can be bad for a man’s health. Unless other purposeful activities replace the roles once held by work, men can become depressed or adopt unhealthy habits and behaviours.
While exercise and leisure activities are not always replacements for role identification, the social benefits of exercise for older adults can be increased happiness, satisfaction with life, and decrease perceptions of loneliness (McAuley et al., 2000.) In fact, the social networks and additional activities created within the framework of physical activity can be perceived to be even more important than the primary exercise activity (Maliha, 2010; Nadasen, 2008.) Good activities for seniors include participation in seniors sporting leagues, group exercise classes, walking groups, and even group personal training. In fact, more sporting, leisure and exercise activities are available to seniors than ever before. Apart from the physical benefits of exercise, perhaps the most important effect of peer group leisure activities is in giving some seniors the opportunities to redefine their roles or create a new sense of additional purpose.
Maliha, K. (2010). Older Adults’ Experiences of an Age-Segmented Exercise Program. University of British Columbia.
McAuley, E., Blissmer, B., Marquez, D., Jerome, G., Kramer, A., & Katula, J. (2000).
Social relations, physical activity, and well-being in older adults. Preventive
Medicine 31(5), 608617.
Nadasen, K. (2008). Life without line dancing and the other activities would be too
dreadful to imagine: An increase in social activity for older women. Journal of
Women & Aging 20(3), 329342.