You’re Never Too Old! Exercise For Seniors
Physical activity and exercise are a vital part of your health and wellness. However, as we age, vigorous movement can become more difficult, as stiff joints, pain, muscle weakness, and a fear of getting injured is common. When we feel uncomfortable moving, we tend to move less – abandoning our exercise and physical activity routines.
There is a problem when we don’t engage in physical activity, even with the aches and pains that come with age. The less we move, the more pain and discomfort we feel. And, the longer we go without being active, the risks of developing illness and disease increase as well.
This article will answer many of your questions about exercise for seniors. It will cover:
- Why exercise and physical activity is crucial as we age
- How much exercise and physical activity we should be getting at different stages in life
- Types of exercise and physical activity that are safe as we age
- Safe and enjoyable exercises for seniors and elderly fitness routines
The Importance of Physical Activity and Exercise for Seniors
There is a slight but essential difference between physical activity and exercise. Physical activity includes any movement we carry out throughout the day, from walking our dog to gardening or doing chores around the house.
On the other hand, exercise is a planned, repetitive, and structured physical activity, like dance, aerobics, lifting weights, or jogging.
Both physical activity and exercise are essential, and both contribute to your exercise and physical activity goals.
Some of the research-backed benefits of exercise for seniors include:
- It helps protect your body from developing chronic diseases such as:
- Heart disease
- Some types of cancer
- It helps you manage chronic disease symptoms
- It helps strengthen your immune system to fight against infections like the cold and flu.
- Improves mental health, including delaying the onset of dementia, improving quality of life and wellbeing
- Sustains and improves body composition and physical performance, including:
- Increasing lean muscle mass
- Improves physical performance
- Increases muscle strength
- Improves bone density and strength
- Improves balance
- It helps to reduce the risk of falls
- It has a positive effect on activities of daily living
Needless to say, there are numerous benefits of getting and staying active by participating in old age workouts, exercise for the elderly, or elderly fitness routines. Even then, simply increasing physical activity by walking more, playing with grandchildren or pets, or gardening are all ways to stay active as you age.
Exercise and Physical Activity Recommendations for Older Adults
The World Health Organization (WHO) is the entity that establishes the standards of physical activity and exercise worldwide. It develops exercise recommendations based on a critical review of the research on exercise physiology, public health, and more. Most national health organizations, such as the CDC in the US, base their recommendations on the WHO standards.
The WHO defines older adults as those who are 65 years and older. They are designed for all older adults unless medical conditions indicate the contrary.
Seniors should aim to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity over the course of the week or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity. You should also engage in muscle-strengthening activities 2 or more days a week.
150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week equates to 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Moderate-intensity physical activity and exercises include walking, speedwalking, yoga, gardening, tai chi, and most housework.
75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity a week equates to 15 minutes a day, five days a week. Vigorous-intensity physical activity includes biking, jogging, running, swimming laps, hiking uphill, and heavy weight lifting.
Some other important guidelines for physical activity and exercise for seniors include:
- Performing aerobic activity in bouts of at least 10 minutes of duration
- Increase your physical activity duration or intensity gradually, aiming to reach 300 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity weekly or 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity weekly.
- The more physical activity you perform, the better.
- If you or a loved one is an older adult who has problems with mobility or balance, they should perform physical activity 3 or more days a week.
- Suppose older adults cannot perform the recommended amounts of physical activity due to health conditions, pain, or limited mobility. In that case, they should do as much physical activity and movement as their bodies and conditions allow.
- If a person has a known health condition, they should talk to their doctor about whether they should follow other specific recommendations around physical activity.
If you or a loved one have concerns about guidelines for exercise for seniors, you can talk to your geriatric physician or a senior fitness coach about the best way to embark on a fitness journey.
Low Impact Exercise for Seniors
Exercise for the elderly is important, but they may be wary about increasing their physical activity if they experience poor mobility, balance issues, or pain. In general, low-impact physical activity and exercise are part of more extensive elderly fitness plans that are sustainable and realistic for older adults to carry out regularly for years to come.
Some safe, low-impact exercise for seniors includes:
- Speed walking
- Using the elliptical
- Tai Chi
- Resistance bands
- Exercise ball
- Lifting weights
- Water aerobics
Remember that physical activity also counts toward your movement goals. Some ways to stay active throughout the day include:
- Doing chores
- Mowing the lawn
- Walking the dog
- Walking to the store
- Standing up and stretching every hour of sitting
- Strolling in the park
There are several other ways to stay active in your daily life. If you are looking for support, talk to family members and neighbors about engaging in exercise with you.
How to Stay Safe Exercising
One reason people may move less as they age is a fear of getting injured and not having a way to ask for help. This may especially be a worry for people who live independently or prefer to go outdoors for their daily movement.
A simple solution will provide you with a sense of support and tranquillity. It will also provide you with immediate medical support if you need it while exercising or performing any tasks. Medical alert devices, like Medical Alert, LifeFone, or UnaliWear, are versatile and diverse options for people with various safety needs.
If you are unsure where to start, you can read full reviews on dozens of medical alert systems here.
Exercise and physical activity are essential to health and wellbeing at all stages of life. As we age, our bodies naturally lose muscle strength and may experience limited mobility, leading seniors to avoid exercise. However, exercise for seniors is important. By selecting elderly fitness routines, old age workouts, and safe exercise for seniors, you can stay healthy while also choosing adequate exercises for your age.
Finally, choosing a medical alert device can help you and your elderly loved ones feel confident about exercising independently in their home or outdoors, knowing that support is only a few minutes away if they need it.