Exercise and Seniors

The older you get, the more important exercising on a regular schedule will become.

Exercise cannot entirely prevent all the medical issues that result from the aging process. However, physical activity can reduce your risks for some health conditions and delay the onset of others. For example, arthritis can set in faster or worsen when you do not stay active enough. Diabetes, heart disease and other health risks can also be decreased when you exercise. Although any exercise is better than none, you will reap the most benefits from a well-rounded exercise regimen.

According to the National Library of Medicine, your chosen routine must include standard aerobic and strength exercises. You must also focus on improving your flexibility and balance. Both can be affected in a negative way by the natural process of aging, but exercise can often delay those effects. Below is more information about how each of those types of exercise can help you as you get older.

Aerobic Exercises and Senior Health

Aerobic exercises are exercises that raise your heart rate and force you to use multiple muscle groups. They are also known as endurance exercises or cardio exercises. By including them in your weekly workout routine, you will improve your lung and heart health. You will also increase your circulation.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you can adjust the length of your workout routine by assessing its intensity level. The CDC recommendation is to get 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise for maintaining your health. Alternatively, you can get a similar benefit from 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise.

There are many types of aerobic exercises from which you can pick. However, some may be inappropriate for your fitness level. Therefore, you must select aerobic exercises you feel comfortable and safe performing. You must also choose the intensity and speed at which you exercise carefully. It is also possible to intensify your aerobic workout routine as your fitness level changes. Types of aerobic exercises include:

  • Swimming
  • Water aerobics.
  • Dancing.
  • Bicycling.
  • Walking.
  • Running.

Strength Exercises and Senior Health

There is an association between the aging process and the loss of muscle or strength. However, muscle weakness is something you can easily prevent. Muscle loss may occur when you lead a sedentary lifestyle, but you can actually build muscle by staying active and performing strength training exercises, also known as resistance or weight training exercises. Such exercises can help you keep your bones strong and stave off often age-related illnesses like:

Strength training can be done using your own body weight. You can also perform strength training exercises with special equipment, such as ankle weights or dumbbells. There are many types of strength training exercises you can try, but bicep curls are among the easiest strength training exercises for seniors. To perform it, you must hold dumbbells in your hand and lift them slowly toward your chest. Then, slowly lower them back down to your waist level. You can perform bicep curls while seated or standing.

Balance Exercises and Senior Health

One of the potential hazards of aging is an increased risk of falling. In fact, according to the National Institute on Aging, approximately two million seniors in the United States visit emergency rooms after falls annually. If you want to avoid such a visit, you must try to maintain good posture and balance as you age. Unlike strength and aerobic exercises, there are no limits on how often you can do balance exercises. However, it is best to perform them with another person present to keep you from falling.

Standing on one foot is a simple type of balance exercise. You can perform it almost anywhere you like. However, it is best to avoid doing so while standing on pavement or other hard surfaces, in case you fall. Holding onto a sturdy object in front of you, such as a chair, can also make the exercise easier. You can also practice your ability to balance by walking toe to heel with your arms stretched out perpendicular to your body.

Another way to improve your balance as you age is to sign up for a class emphasizing the importance of balance. For example, you can learn many poses for balance improvement in a Tai Chi class. Tai Chi is a type of alternative medicine instructional course emphasizing meditation, focus and balance. It is a low-impact activity with many benefits if you have low strength or endurance.

Flexibility Exercises and Senior Health

As you get older, you may find some everyday tasks to be more difficult than they used to be. You may not have the manual dexterity you once had. Your muscles and joints may stiffen with age. Pain when you try to stretch them too much may prevent you from easily performing tasks like:

  • Dressing yourself.
  • Reaching for objects in high areas.
  • Bending to retrieve dropped objects from the floor.

Stretching is the best way to improve your flexibility. By stretching daily, you can make sure your joints and muscles are functioning as well as they can. However, you must stretch with caution, especially if you have had recent surgery. Your doctor can help you determine the safest flexibility exercises for you. If he or she gives you medical permission, try to devote some time to stretching each part of your body including your:

  • Ankles.
  • Legs.
  • Back.
  • Torso.
  • Arms.

Preparing for and Recovering from Exercise as a Senior

You may have some concerns about staying active as a senior. Your ability to avoid or recover from an injury may not be as good as it was when you were younger. However, you can limit your injury risks by taking the proper approach to exercising. Your approach must always include warming up your muscles before any type of moderate or advanced exercise.

If you do find yourself feeling discomfort during exercise, take your discomfort seriously. Do not assume exercise will hurt if you are doing it properly. As a senior, you may have more difficulty recovering from an injury than a younger exercise enthusiast. Therefore, it is more important to stop before a major injury occurs and let your muscles recover.

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