As senior citizens, we are the fastest growing section of our population. Old age should not mean slowing down. Instead of being dreaded, hitting the big five-oh should be celebrated. Studies show that working out in old age can actually slow down your physiological aging clock. You’ve probably read and heard about the importance of maintaining a healthy diet and keeping fit. The benefits of regular exercise for seniors have been well established. However what type of activity is best for seniors? If you are senior with no clue of what exercises to incorporate into your daily routine, this article is for you. Here at Ride With Ease, we are zealous advocates of exercising and keeping fit.
If you thought that power-lifting in the gym, jumping hurdles and competing in triathlons are activities best left to the young generation, well think again. Exercising is no longer a young generation only activity. There are absolutely no limits to what you can do, provided you are able to perform the exercises safely and injury free. Over the years, we have witnessed several seniors busting expectations of what it really means to stay fit at old age. Today it is common to see more seniors in their 60s and 70s hitting the gym. Despite this, inactivity is still a significant public health concern, with many seniors failing to exercise as recommended.
Functional fitness refers to a level of endurance, strength, joint flexibility, cardiovascular efficiency and balance that allows us to lead a normal life. Activities of daily living (ADLs) include the ability to feed yourself, move on your own from one point to the other, dress and perform unassisted toilet functions. More and more seniors want to maintain their independence, but declining health can make this seem far-reaching. The good news is that exercising may help you preserve your independence, decrease depression and improve the general quality of life. Functional fitness also helps to minimize the risk of diseases and illnesses associated with old age. Such diseases include diabetes, pulmonary disease and arthritis.
For many seniors, getting started is the hardest part of exercising. Before picking an exercise regimen, take into consideration your abilities, expectations and attitude. Point out what you intend to achieve from a specific exercise. The reason for wanting to stay fit can be just as important as actually enrolling in a fitness program. Remember being over-ambitious means you’re setting yourself up for failure. Know what you are capable of and challenge yourself to be better every day. If you have pre-existing medical conditions that limit your physical abilities, you should avoid physically taxing exercises. For example, if you’ve recently undergone a knee or hip replacement, low-impact exercises like walking may be better than running.
Before you even think of starting a fitness routine, you should go to your primary care physician for a medical clearance. Consider hiring a certified personal trainer at the early conditioning stages to help you figure out safe goals. Be open with your trainer about any physical inability or medical conditions you have. Together, you can come up with a low-intensity training program tailored to your specific needs. A workout program should have the right balance to mode, volume and intensity.
The types and amount of exercise in which seniors should participate in vary based on factors such as age and special conditions. 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise/week is recommended for older adults. If you are worried about the types of exercises to engage in, you will be glad to hear that there are a handful of 10-20 minutes’ routine you can try from the comfort of your home. Performing these short period exercises spread throughout the weak is easier to accomplish. You don’t have to spend extended periods in the fitness center working the treadmill or lifting heavy weights to maintain functional fitness. As a rule of the thumb, the best exercise is the one you will stick with. Find a fitness program that you are comfortable with and run with it.
Below are the top exercise recommendations for older adults according to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), the American Heart Association (AHA) and the National Institute on Aging (NIA).
Also called weightlifting exercises, this exercise builds up muscle with repetitive motion when you lift free weights and elastic bands. Besides building bone density and decreasing body fat, strength training also improves mental health and reduces the risk of chronic disease. Strength training needs to be performed at least twice weekly with a rest between the training sessions. This, however, doesn’t mean that you should avoid other exercises during the rest days. Strength training exercises should cover all muscle groups including arms, shoulders, abdomen, chest, hips, back and legs. It involves pulling resistance, lifting free weights and making use of strength-training equipment. If you’re strong enough to do strength training daily, be sure to alternate the muscle groups. You can listen to audiobooks or music when strength training to motivate yourself.
Most of us knew how to ride a bike when we were little. Unknown to many people, bike riding is a great cardiovascular exercise. It helps to minimize fatigue and shortness of breath. Bike riding can also help you lose some weight. The advantage of riding a bike is that it can be done anywhere.
Swimming is another aerobic activity that utilizes large muscle groups in rhythmic movements over a specified period. It will get your heart pumping and enhance your endurance for ADLs like weeding the garden or doing the dishes.
If it’s your first time trying to exercise, try walking. Besides being low impact, just like bike riding, walking can be done anywhere, anytime. All you need is comfortable sneakers, and you are good to go! You don’t need to purchase any special equipment. Try to increase your exercise time from the minimal 10 minutes to longer stretches.
If your knees are up to the task, you can try evening jogs. Jogging is another cardio exercise that will gradually raise your heart rate. No need to rush, start slow and progress based on your physical abilities. To be motivated, find a jogging partner and work on building your endurance. When you exercise with a partner, you can challenge each other and make the routines fun.
Try to join dancing classes to improve your mobility and flexibility.
Balance exercises will help to build up your leg muscles and help you to become more stable. You should try to perform stability exercises daily for best results. Some activities to try to improve your lower body stability include the stork pose and heel-to-toe walking. Performing Yoga, Qi Gong, Pilates, Tai Chi and posture exercises can also help you to be more stable.
Stretching exercises will not only help you to enhance the ability of your joints to move freely but also better your endurance and strength. For best results, perform flexibility exercises after you have finished doing strength training. If you don’t perform strength training, then ensure that you warm up prior to performing flexibility exercises. A warm-up does not have to be intense, a 10-minute walk, wall push-ups or gentle movements is okay. Target thigh stretches, upper arm, shoulder and calf to be more flexible.
An active lifestyle as you grow old is vital to your health. Staying physically active in your golden years can be the best give you can give yourself this new year. Regardless of what exercise you choose; it helps to focus on short-term goals and keep track of your progress. Having goals gives you a mental picture of what is expected of you and acts as a reminder of why you started exercising. In as little as one month, you should notice an improvement in your appearance and energy levels. Reward yourself after every successful milestone. You can buy yourself a pet, spend the afternoon at the spa or take a vacation – whatever it takes to keep you on track with your fitness goals.