Exercise for seniors
Get moving and reap the rewards
Simply adding minimal amounts of physical activity can pay huge dividends for seniors—improving appearance, strength, balance, mobility, and overall mood.
But making exercise part of your daily routine can significantly impact your long-range health, combating conditions such as heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, and more. In fact, those who are active also benefit from fewer hospitalizations, lower medication use, and generally have the ability to live independently longer.
Increasing physical activity allows you to continue enjoying the things you like to do: playing with grandchildren, gardening, walking the dog, cooking, and more. Additionally, increasing physical activity will help with basic tasks like tying shoes, carrying groceries, or climbing steps.
And there’s no need to join health clubs or participate in strenuous routines that could cause more harm. Consider the following tips for improving short- and long-term health for anyone at any age.
Prior to exercising, consult a doctor to assess your physical abilities and address any potential issues. Experts also suggest beginners start with low-intensity exercises with minimal effort in order to gradually work their way up to a higher level.
Keep a log of activities and set goals, which will allow you to celebrate your achievements, keep on track, and strive to improve. Make your goals specific (ex: I want to swim five laps in five months) and set both short- and long-term goals. When tracking your activities, monitor progress by noting how long you did each exercise.
Finally, be sure you have proper exercise equipment such as quality shoes. Immediately stop exercising if you experience any pain, dizziness, or cramps.
Find what works
Experts suggest seniors strive for regular physical activity at least once per day. Find activities that fit into your daily life and choose activities that match your interests, budget, and health.
Most seniors focus on one area of exercise, but adding variety is helpful. Try incorporating all types of exercise—endurance, strength, flexibility, and balance—into your routines.
Endurance activities include:
- yard work
- swimming, water exercises
- climbing stairs or hills
- playing tennis, basketball, etc.
Strength activities include:
- lifting weights
- resistance bands
Balance activities include:
- heel-to-toe walk
- standing on one foot
- tai chi
Flexibility activities include:
Strive to complete 30 minutes of endurance activity every day. Strength exercises should be rotated to meet all of the major muscle groups on two or more days a week for 30 minutes each. The same muscle groups should not be targeted on consecutive days. For example, target arms and shoulders one day, then legs the next day.
You may also find that you want to work with a personal trainer who can help you set goals and keep you motivated. Survey your friends and family to see if they know a qualified trainer or contact your health care provider. Many trainers specialize in working specifically with seniors.
After just a few weeks of regular physical activity, you’ll recognize the results. You’ll be stronger, have more energy, and be able to do things easier.
To build on your progress, try increasing the amount and frequency of physical activity, and add different exercises. Get creative by:
- taking dance lessons
- joining a bowling team
- participating in water aerobics classes
- viewing exercise videos available at the local library
You can also make exercising more fun by finding a partner, listening to music, or competing with a friend. Find ways to work activities into your daily life, such as doing leg lifts or arm workouts while watching TV.
Our Holiday Retirement communities often offer regular exercises classes for seniors, too. Contact a community near you to learn more.
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