As we age into our senior years, losing the stamina and energy we once had is normal. In addition, we may experience discomfort and pain in areas we had never paid attention to—sore knees, back pain, and loss of breath due to weak lungs are just a handful of the reasons why adults tend to stop exercising as they age. But this doesn’t mean older adults can’t enjoy the physical and mental benefits of regular exercise.
All adults can benefit from regular, moderate physical activity, even if they suffer from medical conditions like obesity, high blood pressure, arthritis, etc. In this article, we look closely at why light exercise is so beneficial for senior adults, examples of suitable activities to try, and resources to support you as you begin to reintroduce moderate movement into your daily routine.
If you’re over 50, regular, moderate exercise is one of the best things you can do for your health. Whether you go for a light morning walk or participate in an energizing Zumba Gold class, any physical activity is better than none. You’ll still reap the benefits!
Here are just some of the reasons why you might consider getting serious about introducing more physical activity into your day-to-day routine:
Suppose you already have a chronic condition like diabetes or hypertension. In that case, you’ll be pleased to know that any form of light, moderate but regular exercise can drastically reduce your symptoms.
Chronic diseases are the leading cause of death in America, so this isn’t a benefit to overlook. Health experts regularly explain that exercise is the best way to decrease your risk of developing these diseases in the first place.
Aerobic exercise, for example, helps to improve your cardiovascular health, therefore preventing chronic heart and lung conditions. Strength training exercises build muscle and strengthen joints, improving general mobility, core strength, and physical functionality.
According to the Mayo Clinic, exercising several times a week for thirty to sixty minutes can even prevent cognitive declines such as Alzheimer's and dementia as it helps keep your thinking, reasoning, and learning skills sharp.
According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, physical falls are the most common injury among adults over 65. And while falls are serious at any age, senior adults face significantly more risk, especially if they have weak bones.
Maintaining an active lifestyle improves your balance and gives you a stronger core (the part that keeps you upright!).
Many older adults may feel intimated by the idea of strengthening their core and gaining muscle strength, but you won’t need to go to the gym five days a week and lift heavy weights. Instead, light, moderate, and regular movement incorporated into your daily life is enough to strengthen your muscles and core strength.
You may be expending energy while moving, but did you know that regular exercise actually gives you more energy? Beginners to exercise may assume that exercise will tire them out, but thankfully, that’s not the case!
Exercise boosts oxygen circulation around the body, which not only supports the energy production in your body, but also allows your body to perform better and expend its energy more efficiently.
Plus, when you exercise, your body releases endorphins that make you feel happier and more energetic. People who like to run often refer to this as the famous runner’s high. But don’t worry - you don’t need to run marathons to get the same burst of endorphins!
For senior adults, the ability to walk, balance, and generally move around decreases, making it harder to complete daily activities. The good news is that staying active can help seniors to live more independently.
In losing the ability and freedom to tackle regular, day-to-day activities, our quality of life may suffer drastically. The longer you sit, the harder it gets to move, making hours spent watching TV on the sofa more damaging as you age.
Being regularly active has the opposite effect. Seniors can significantly decrease their risk of falls and immobility by staying active throughout the day. This means you may require far less assistance during the day and can continue enjoying a higher quality of life in your senior years.
We’ve covered a few significant benefits of regular exercise for older adults, but how much exercise do seniors actually need?
Here’s what the CDC recommends for all adults aged 65 and older:
While adults over 65 should follow these guidelines, it’s essential to consider ways to live a more active lifestyle outside the time you spend exercising. Typically, this comes down to sitting less and moving more. Here are some tips from the British NHS to help you get started:
Remember, any movement is better than no movement at all. Here are some activities that count as light exercise:
Moderate-intensity activities will raise your heart rate and make you breathe faster, but you won’t necessarily be out of breath. You should still be able to hold a conversation at a moderate-intensity activity. Here are a few examples:
Exercises at a more vigorous intensity should have you breathing hard and fast. Unlike moderate activities, you won’t be able to talk much without stopping to catch your breath.
Several health studies have shown that around 75 minutes of high-intensity exercise can equal 150 minutes of moderate-intensity movements. Here are some examples:
Earlier, we spoke about the importance of strengthening core muscles for senior adults to prevent falls and maintain an able body. You can work on strengthening your muscles and improving your balance in several ways, and you can do these activities either at home or at your local gym or leisure center. Here are some examples:
It’s never too late to start incorporating more movement into your daily life and develop a healthier, fitter lifestyle. In this article, we’ve covered the basics of keeping active for adults aged 65 and over, the benefits of doing so, and the various types of activities you can choose.
To wrap up, here are six tips to get started safely:
Before introducing any type of exercise into your routine, you should always get medical clearance first, especially if you have any pre-existing health/medical conditions.
As you start introducing exercise into your routine, you might want to speak to a dietician to ensure you’re consuming adequate micro and macronutrients to support your rest and recovery.
If you haven’t been active in a while, don’t put the pedal to the metal right from the start! Your body will need to adjust to movement, so it’s essential to build up bit by bit.
Take breaks when you feel like you need them, or divide your exercise routine into two or three sections while you get used to it.
Exercise should energize you and give you a sense of pride and achievement. However, if you feel dizzy, lightheaded, or sick, stop immediately, and call your doctor. Things you shouldn’t feel while exercising include chest pains, extreme shortness of breath, or tightness in your chest.
If your joints look red or feel tender when you touch them, put your exercise routine on hold and check with your doctor.
If you’re realistic about how much you’ll exercise, you’re far more likely to stick to your plan. So choose a rough time of the day that you think you’ll be able to stick to and make a habit of doing it.
You don’t need to commit to exercising at 11:30 am sharp every day, but you could make a note that you’ll exercise just before lunch.
The most fundamental thing you can do when exercising is to warm up before you begin and cool down when you finish.
Don’t skip this step! Without warming up and cooling down, you can risk serious injury. A good place to start is 10-15 minutes of dynamic stretching moves before you begin your workout (these could be leg swings or arm rotations) and 10-15 minutes of static stretching at the end (holding a stretch for a few seconds without moving).
Here’s a great video on how to sufficiently warm up before exercising:
And here’s a video that demonstrates how to cool down once you’ve finished:
Eudaimonia Health offers group classes to residential living facilities, assisted-living centers, and more. All of our instructors are trained and follow pre- and post-workout safety checks. We recommend our seated exercise classes which are fun and social, as well as good for health.
We offer classes all over the United States, so contact us today to chat about your facility’s exercise needs.