No matter your age, regular exercise is an important aspect of living a healthy lifestyle. As you get older, exercise can help prevent many of the health issues that may arise, like heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes. A strong body will also allow seniors maintain an independent lifestyle.
There are four categories of low-impact exercises that seniors should incorporate into their daily lives: strength, endurance, balance, and flexibility. A mixture of all four types will help seniors remain healthy while also protecting them from injury. The CDC recommends that older adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate endurance exercise and perform 2 strengthening sessions per week.
While senior centers and local gyms often offer exercise classes specifically for the elderly, you don’t need to hit the gym to stay fit. There are a few downloadable apps that offer customizable workouts one can do from anywhere. Any senior can create an effective, low-impact workout regimen at home by simply combining the following types of exercise.
Many seniors may be wary of strength exercises because they think it means lifting heavy weights. However, strength exercises can be done without dumbbells and still be effective due to the resistance from your body weight. It is recommended that strength training be done two to three times per week in 30-minute sessions, with rest days in between to allow the muscle groups to recover. As your muscles become stronger, you can incorporate light weights or resistance bands (or even small household objects) to continue your progress. Click here to read about strength exercises for seniors that will boost metabolism, strengthen bones, and build muscles, making it easier for them to complete their everyday tasks around the house.
Endurance, or cardio, exercises improve heart health, lower blood pressure, and speed up metabolism. If you are just beginning to incorporate cardio exercises into your routine, it is best to start slowly (5-minute increments) and gradually add more time as your endurance builds. The goal is to increase your heart rate and breathing, but not to get so out of breath that you can’t carry on a conversation. If you reach this level, or experience any dizziness or pain, you are working too hard and should slow down to let yourself recover. Once your endurance has built up more, you should aim for cardio sessions of no less than 10 minutes at a time, adding up to at least 30 minutes per day. It is recommended that seniors get at least 150 minutes of moderate endurance activity per week. For beginners, it is best to start out with moderate endurance exercises, and build up to vigorous exercises with a doctor’s permission.
Moderate endurance exercises:
- Brisk walking on a level surface
- Gardening or mowing the lawn,
- Stationary cycling
- Bicycling on a level surface
Vigorous endurance exercises:
- Climbing stairs or hills
- Shoveling snow
- Brisk bicycling uphill
- Digging holes
Maintaining flexibility as you age will provide more freedom of movement, allowing you to stay active longer. You should always stretch before doing endurance or strength exercises. You can also incorporate programs that specifically focus on flexibility. Many senior centers offer yoga and Tai Chi classes that keep the needs of older bodies in mind. Some of your favorite hobbies, like golfing or gardening, help keep you flexible and strong as well.
Incorporating exercise that improve a senior’s balance could potentially be life-saving; according to the CDC, the leading cause of injury death in those over 65 is falls. Improving balance will overall help a senior live a safer and more independent life, while giving their family members peace of mind. Eldergym.com offers a list of balance exercises and corresponding videos that seniors can do anywhere with minimal equipment.
If you want to start incorporating any of these exercises into your weekly routine, be sure to check with your doctor beforehand to find out which exercises would be the safest for you. It may seem daunting to begin an exercise regimen that includes all of the above, but you should remind yourself that something is better than nothing! Try incorporating 10-minute sessions into your daily routine – doing strength exercises while your coffee brews in the morning, going for a walk after lunch, or doing stretches while your favorite show is on. These short-term fitness goals will allow you to start living a healthy, active lifestyle.
Article written by Taylor French with Amada Senior Care