Fitness for Seniors

Most of us are now aware of the vast number of benefits that regular physical exercise can bring to our lives. Regular physical exercise not only reduces your risk of heart attack and stroke, but it also keeps your weight in check and your mood in balance.

However, few of us realize the important health benefits that exercise can bring to us when we reach our senior years. In fact, less than 30% of American seniors exercise on a regular basis. But maintaining proper fitness during the senior years is vital to maintaining strength, flexibility, and overall health and it can be lots of fun too! So here are some great tips on how to stay in shape during your senior years.

Why Should Seniors Exercise?

It is important that people of all ages get the proper amount of exercise every day. However, it is especially important that senior men and women also engage in regular physical exercise in order to maintain proper health and fitness. As we age, the body begins to slow down a little bit, affecting various aspects of our health.

In particular, our muscle strength, endurance, and flexibility begin to suffer. In fact, once you pass the age of 25, your total body strength decreases by 4% every decade. This can make it more and more difficult to participate in daily activities, such as household cleaning, meal preparation, and social events. Regular physical exercise can help to combat the loss of this muscle strength, and bring back much needed flexibility and endurance.

Daily exercise can also help to combat many illnesses that plague senior citizens, including:

Is it Safe to Exercise?

Many seniors decide against regular physical exercise because they are afraid that it may be dangerous for them. While senior citizens may not want to get involved in activities such as rock climbing or marathon running, it is perfectly safe for the majority of seniors to participate in moderate physical activities. To be on the safe side, though, be sure to check with your health insurance provider before you begin any type of physical exercise routine.

However, most health professionals recommend that senior citizens try to get a least 30 minutes of exercise every day, even if they are suffering from certain age-related health disorders.

What Types of Exercise Should Seniors Pursue?

It is important that senior citizens pursue a combination of different physical activities in order to get the maximum health benefits possible.

  • Aerobic Activities: Aerobic activities are those that work to raise your heart rate. They help to build stamina and endurance, as well as burn calories and fat. It is recommended that seniors try to engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise, five times every week. Look for low impact exercises that won’t put too much stress on your bones or joints. Walking, swimming, and cycling are some great aerobic exercises for you to try.
  • Strength Exercises: Strength-building exercises are an essential part of any activity regimen and they are particularly important for seniors. Strength conditioning helps to build muscle and bone mass, allowing you improved range of motion and endurance. Strength exercises should be performed twice a week and may include weight-lifting or resistance training.
  • Flexibility Exercises: Flexibility exercises help to improve overall body movement and balance. They can also help to protect against falls as well as muscle and joint injuries. Yoga, tai chi, and simple stretching exercises can all help to build your flexibility. Try to perform these exercises along with your aerobic exercise routines.

Starting an Exercise Routine

Once you decide to begin an exercise routine, there are a few things that you should keep in mind.

  • Conditioning Level: First and foremost, it is important to assess your level of conditioning. If you haven’t been exercising regularly, it is important that you begin slowly. Start off with only five or ten minutes of exercise at a time, and take regular breaks. You can slowly build up your exercise routine as your body becomes accustomed to the physical activity.
  • Activity Type: Also be sure to pick an activity or exercise that is right for you. Choose activities that are fun to do and that will keep you interested. And never perform an exercise that causes you pain. Low-intensity, simple activities are always best.

While You are Exercising

In order to ensure that you remain safe and healthy while you are exercising, try to follow these simple tips.

  • Wear lightweight and loose-fitting clothing while you are working out. Also wear properly-fitting shoes that provide good arch support.
  • Warm up and cool down during each exercise session. Spend five or ten minutes doing simple, low-intensity stretches to prepare your body for exercise and get your heart pumping. After you exercise, cool down by taking a slow walk or by performing some simple stretches.
  • Be sure to drink water while you are exercising. As you sweat, your body loses a substantial amount of fluids, which can leave you dehydrated. Drink water every five minutes or so to replenish these lost fluids.
  • Never push yourself to the point of pain. If you feel dizzy, lightheaded, or nauseated, stop exercising immediately. If you need help when no one is around, one of these can help tremendously. If you feel chest pain or pressure while exercising, be sure to report it to your health care professional.

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