Moving around can be difficult, especially as we get older. Whether you have orthopedic issues, blood clots, incontinence issues, or an ostomy, exercise needs to be a priority, regardless of age. Fitness offers many benefits. It helps you maintain your weight while lowering cholesterol and blood pressure. It strengthens muscles and bones and reduces your risk of developing a heart attack or stroke.
Mobility issues and health conditions can make it difficult to work out. The good news is that there are many low-impact exercises that can bring about huge benefits.
Ready to get in shape? Try these exercise tips for seniors:
1. Start slowly. Be realistic, especially if you have not exercised much in the past. When starting a new routine, do not rush into it too quickly. If you expect to start working out an hour a day, your body is going to resist it. You could tear a muscle or injure yourself in other ways, so use caution.
Always begin with stretching so you do not injure yourself. Start off with 15-20 minutes of exercise several times a week. Start with walking, then progress to jogging, weightlifting, or something else more strenuous. You can then try to incorporate various types of exercises so you can strengthen your entire body. Try to aim for some form of exercise on a daily basis.
2. Focus on muscle strength. As the saying goes, use it or lose it. Muscle strength decreases with age, which is why it is important to make strides to increase it. Even small changes can make a big difference. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends strength training for seniors at least twice a week.
While weight training is good exercise routine for many seniors, check with your doctor before starting any new exercise regimen, since certain health conditions may make it difficult to do certain exercises. If your doctor gives you the go-ahead, try small weights and try multiple repetitions of chest presses, bicep curls, triceps extensions, and other weightlifting exercises. As you advance, it is recommended that you move on to heavier weights and incorporate squats, lunges, and pushups into your routine.
Some seniors choose weightlifting machines as their foray into strength training. This is fine, as well, and may be safer, since seniors are less likely to fall or get injured using such a machine.
It is not necessary to splurge on a gym membership in order to reap the rewards of enhanced strength. Many communities have classes geared toward seniors. Since you will be with others around your same age, this provides social benefits as well. If there are no classes nearby, you can easily purchase free weights to use at home.
3. Improving balance is also key. Millions of elderly Americans suffer from serious falls every year. Many of these falls are caused by a lack of balance. Fortunately, there are some simple exercises that can help.
To improve balance, there is an exercise you can try; just make sure to get your doctor’s approval first. First, stand behind a sturdy chair. Place one hand on the chair and the other on your hip. Lift the right leg and slowly bend it. Count to 10 and then relax. Try for nine more repetitions and then repeat with the other leg. In time, you should be able to do the exercise without having to put a hand on the back of the chair.
4. Build aerobic endurance. Focus on exercises that increase your heart rate. The good news is that you do not have to go out jogging or run on a treadmill to accomplish this. Start off with some low-impact exercises, such as walking or swimming. Once you feel comfortable, you can advance to higher-impact exercises, such as dancing and tai chi.
Experts recommend using treadmills since they provide cardiovascular activity and help with balance because they have rails. Ellipticals and exercise bikes are easy to use and provide good exercise.
The CDC recommends 150 minutes of aerobic exercise weekly for seniors over age 65. This amounts to 30 minutes a day, five days a week. After six weeks, you will notice significant changes in your body and find it easier to exercise even more.
5. Get flexible. Muscles tend to tighten as we age. Daily tasks that we never had trouble with before—such as reaching for dishes in a cabinet, bending over to pick up something off the floor or getting dressed—can start to seem more difficult for seniors.
Fortunately, with just a few minutes of stretching daily, you can overcome tight muscles and feel more flexible. Start by walking or marching in place for several minutes a day, and then transition into a stretch and hold the pose for 10 seconds.
Try this neck stretch. First, slowly turn your head to the right until you feel a stretch. Hold for up to 30 seconds, and then repeat with the left side. Try this for three more reps on each side.
You can also try incorporating a beginner yoga class into your routine. When stretching, remember to keep breathing. Try not to overdo it. Stretching should not be painful. If you feel pain or soreness the next day, you went too far. Go slower next time.
Exercising in your senior years will be easier if you incorporate the tips above. By starting off slowly and engaging in activities you enjoy, you will feel healthier and happier during your golden years.