As we age, our body changes as well. Exercise and Nutrition are essential to keep up, especially the older we become. A healthy lifestyle and staying active are important for seniors because they are more susceptible to wear and tear on their bodies. There are many reasons why seniors should stay in shape compared to their younger generation. For seniors, exercise will help you live longer, healthier, and can help seniors enjoy life at the prime of their life. There are also many benefits to exercising for seniors. According to the National Institute on Aging, Senior adults should stay motivated to exercise. It is easy to fall into the persona of sitting on the couch and watching your favorite TV shows as we age. Physical activity is essential for older adults to gain substantial health benefits and maintain their independence. The NIH also provides tips on how to stay healthy and motivated while exercising. Read on to find out the five most common exercises for seniors to do in order to stay happy and healthy. These five types of exercises will allow for mild resistance while providing support to the body. Keep in mind, always check with your doctor before starting any exercise program. If you have not regularly been exercising, any type of resistance can be a shock to your system.
Both water exercises and water aerobics provide seniors with low resistance while doing an exercise routine in the water. When you exercise in water, you are using your own body weight for resistance. So, there is less pressure on your bones, and you can move easier. Plus, it minimizes the risk of an injury. Moving throughout the water also massages the soft tissues. If the water is heated, it can also increase circulation and improve cardiac function. Water exercises can also give seniors a higher range of motion and increase flexibility throughout the entire body. Swimming is just one type of exercise in the water. Many seniors may enjoy a variety of types of water aerobics while exercising to stay in shape. These include water walking, arm circles, arm raises, leg swings, flutter kicks, or just jogging in water. Using the pool noodle is also another great way to do daily water exercises. The noodles are lightweight and ideal for stretching exercises while swimming. Some suggest doing yoga or Pilates while in the water as well. By doing water exercises, seniors can start out with mild resistance and work up to more intense workouts as their body adjusts to the change of a more active lifestyle.
Another great exercise for seniors is Yoga. As we continue to age, so are our chances of joint pain, sore muscles, and fatigue from everyday living. Unfortunately, not all seniors can move the way they used to and this makes exercising more difficult to do. Many times age-related ailments will prevent seniors from staying active and drive seniors into a sedentary lifestyle. However, yoga or chair yoga is extremely accessible to seniors and offers incredible benefits as we age. Chair yoga is one of the easiest exercises for your joints because of the low-impact it has on your body. Doing yoga in the chair also can be done at any fitness level, whether you are a beginner or an expert trainer. This exercise is great for seniors who are active physically or recovering from an injury.
Here are some benefits for seniors that are doing chair yoga:
- Low impact on joints
- Improves flexibility
- Stress reduction
- Improves pain management
- Improves circulation
- Combats depression and anxiety
- Improves balance
- Promotes independence and wellbeing
Next, let’s talk about mobility issues with seniors. As we age, so does our decreased mobility. Many older adults find it more difficult to even roll out of bed compared to when they were in their 20’s and 30’s. It is easy to take the simple things like walking around the aisles in your favorite store for granted. This is why staying fit and mobile is important as we get older. To keep us moving safely, there are some basic exercises that can help seniors with their flexibility, balance, muscular strength, and cardiovascular endurance. These exercises can help combat mobility difficulties as we age. Movement and/or functional fitness routines will keep older adults staying active, so they can continue to do simple things like lifting groceries, taking showers with ease, or just getting out of bed.
Functional exercises for seniors: Exercises that help strengthen your core, improve your posture, and ease pain in your lower back. Here is a description of possible functional exercises.
Dead bug: Lift your feet in the air and bend your knees 90 degrees. As you exhale, straighten your knee, flex your quads, and drop your hips until your left leg falls to 3″ away from the floor.
As your leg drops, your right arm should extend over your head. Make sure your core stays engaged and holds for one count. Inhale, keep your core engaged, and return your arm and leg to their starting position. Do 10-20 reps.
Tummy Twists: Start by sitting upright in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Hold a ball with your hands close to your stomach and elbows slightly bent. Slowly rotate your torso to the left while keeping your body stable. Return to the center and then repeat to the right. Do this until you finish 10 twists per side.
Stair Climbs: make sure you inhale and exhale as you climb each step.
Chair Squats: Stand in front of a sturdy chair with your feet shoulder-width apart. Slowly lower yourself into the chair by bending your knees and leaning forward at the waist. Return to standing by leaning forward, squeezing the glutes, and pushing through the heels. Repeat for a total of 10 squats.
Wall Push-Ups: Stand 2-3 feet in front of a wall. With your arms shoulder-width apart, reach out and place your hands chest-high on the wall. Slowly bend your elbows and lower your chest to the wall. Use your arms to push yourself back to a starting position. Repeat to complete 10 reps.
Dumbbell Row: Hold a light to medium weight object in one hand. Lean forward onto a table or countertop with your opposite arm for support. As you squeeze your shoulder blade, pull the dumbbell back until your elbow is parallel with your body. Slowly lower the dumbbell back down. Repeat 9 times and then switch arms.
Another exercise for seniors to try is using resistance bands. Resistance bands are great for those who want to get in the habit of exercising after putting it off for quite some time. Many seniors tend to start a walking or swimming regime; however, it is sometimes easier to start small by using resistance bands. There are various sizes of these bands, which tend to be color-coded; each size gives the user a different amount of resistance when in use. Just exercising with the bands for 30 minutes a day, for 3 to 5 days a week can be a huge benefit to older adults and keep them on a healthy track. Resistance bands can also help seniors from hitting a plateau during their exercise routine. By starting with the lowest resistance first, and slowly moving up your resistance, this can prevent seniors from causing any soreness or injury. It can also save space, since they are small and can easily be stored and put away when not in use. Seniors can also improve their cardiovascular function and become more active with resistance bands. There is no need to purchase a gym membership or buy a lot of expensive equipment. Just simply sit in a comfortable chair and workout.
Walking. It is the most common exercise there is, and it is for every age group. Yet, for seniors it is one type of exercise that proves to be one of the most, less stressful activities you can do to stay healthy and fit. In fact, there is no skill in walking. Just walk out of your home and go for a walk. However, it is suggested that for new or just starting out walkers, you should use a low terrain or flat surface to start a walking activity. Do not just start any walking or hiking activity by climbing hills or mountain trails at first. For those who do have some experience on hiking, there are a variety of hiking trails with spectacular views throughout the nation that are open to the public. Below is a small list of the most sought-out hiking trails in the US. Many national trails are paved and easy to access for seniors with limited disability as well.
Zion Narrows Riverside Walk: The Zion Narrows Riverside Walk is a popular walking trail, located in southeast Utah. The trail is paved for 1.8 miles with an easy 206-foot elevation climb.
Maroon Bells Scenic Loop Trail: The Maroon Bells Scenic Loop Trail is an awesome place for seniors to get out and enjoy the beauty of Colorado’s mountains.
Dukes Creek Trail: Located in Helen, Georgia, this trail is 2.2 miles, featuring a beautiful waterfall. The first part of the trail is paved for easy hikers. Then the trail takes you up to an observation deck, where seniors can overlook the ravine and falls.
Multnomah Falls Trail: This trail is a little more challenging, however, it provides an incredible view of the Columbia River Gorge. The complete trail is only 2 miles, start to finish, and climbs to 823 feet.
Seniors Should Avoid These Exercises
There are some exercises that older adults should avoid. Some workouts are more suited for the younger generation and could possibly put an unhealthy strain on seniors. These types of exercises can also cause more harm by inducing joint pain, posture problems, and balance issues. So, before starting any exercise activity, first consult your physician. Here are some examples of unnecessary exercises for seniors over 65. Unless of course you are an avid rock climber, most seniors should take caution.
Long-distance running: For the average person, it stimulates the heart, respiratory system and the brain, and reduces cardiovascular mortality. However, it increases your heart rate, causing seniors to get out of breath much more easily than younger individuals. It can also cause your heart blood pressure to rise. Senior adults can run, just take precaution when doing so.
Rock climbing: This is an obviously bad idea for an older adult to participate in. It requires lots of agility to climb steep inclines or rocks without losing your balance. Falling or injury-related instances can occur. It is best to avoid this exercise.
High-intensity interval training (HIIT): This exercise is for serious competitors. With HIIT exercises, you are doing intense training with few breaks between workouts. This combination is not really beneficial to seniors or those who are not used to intense workouts.
Powerlifting: Although some seniors can still lift a good amount of weight, most should stay clear of overexerting themselves while lifting heavy weights. Activities such as bench pressing, deadlifts, or even deep squats could be dangerous for certain seniors. Doing deep squats can put a strain on the knee joints, which is a common place for arthritus. Chair exercises would be a better choice. Always take caution when doing any of these exercises.
Stair Climbs: Climbing stairs can get mor difficult as we age. For seniors, there is a higher chance of falling or injury when climbing stairs. Plus, it can lead to other health problems. Look for a safer alternative, such as leg lifts you can do while sitting in a chair or on the couch.
How does exercise help with your health?
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), there are many exercises that can be very beneficial to seniors. Some exercises can boost their energy, strengthen your muscles, manage your weight, improve your sleep, and help seniors maintain their independence. Exercise for seniors can also benefit the mind, memory, and even a senior’s overall mood. Exercising regularly can reduce symptoms of illness or prevent disease. Seniors who are battling heart disease, osteoporosis, depression or diabetes can benefit from a routine workout. It may not dissolve the illness, but it can help relieve pain and lessen the symptoms. Regular exercising may also prevent type 2 diabetes and help keep a healthy blood pressure. Seniors who exercise had lower health-care costs and stayed out of the hospital more, compared with older adults who did not exercise. Lastly, older adults that exercise will build up their strength, relieve stress, and reduce feelings of sadness, depression, and anxiety, according to the NIH.