We all know exercise is good for everyone. However, there seems to be some fear or trepidation when it comes to exercise for seniors. What is classified as too strenuous? Will it hurt more than it will help? What if it leads to a fall or injury?
Believe it or not, exercise for seniors doesn’t have to be strenuous to be beneficial. The pain and stiffness of aging can be a temporary tension. Studies show moderate exercise helps to prevent or delay dementia as well as many other diseases and disabilities, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). A physical activity program keeps us more independent and can greatly extend and improve the quality of our lives.
Here are four types of exercise to consider:
Stretching can provide more freedom of movement.
Besides feeling good, stretching reduces the wear-and-tear of everyday life by activating fluids in your joints. When muscles are inactive, circulation is restricted and they become stiff. A stiff muscle is uncomfortable and more prone to injury. Simply touching your toes and doing slow neck and shoulder rolls three times a week can improve flexibility and reduce the risk of injury.
Balance can help prevent falls that often lead to broken hips.
According to NIH, U.S. hospitals have 300,000 admissions for broken hips annually. Avoiding the disabilities that result from falling will keep us independent longer and preserve our ability to do the things we love. Practicing walking heel to toe and standing up and sitting down without use of hands can improve balance and reduce the risk of injury. Another useful exercise is to alternate standing on one foot for five to ten seconds. Be sure to stand next to something firm, like a kitchen counter, so if you lose your balance, you can reach out to support yourself.
Endurance exercises are excellent for heart health and weight loss.
Any activity that increases the heart rate and breathing — even if only for 5 minutes at a time — is helpful in building endurance. Dancing is a wonderful activity because it engages both the mind and the body, achieving two workouts in one. Walking is always a safe choice and can be implemented in small increments of time and intensity. Feel free to start slow and work up to an ultimate goal of 30 minutes of walking per day.
Strength exercises increase metabolism, leading to better blood sugar levels.
Strength exercises don’t require heavy weights. In fact, some don’t require any weights at all!. Arm raises and bicep curls can be done in a chair with a can of soup or bottle of water for resistance. Simple chair stands and knee flexion exercises use your own body weight to strengthen the stomach, back, hip and leg muscles. These exercises can make a difference with as few as two sessions per week.
As we age, we don’t have to lose our ability to do everyday tasks. Exercise can help us feel better and enjoy life more. Help yourself or your loved one to restore or maintain flexibility, balance, strength, and endurance by implementing a physical activity program today. It’s never too late to get started!
Research & Community Education