For older adults, taking care of their physical fitness can mean the difference between active, exciting time spent in retirement or being unable to participate in activities they once used to enjoy due to reduced physical abilities, poor balance, or compromised endurance. Incorporating regular physical activity into your routine after age 50 can help boost your mood and reduce your chances of developing health conditions common in elderly people with a sedentary lifestyle.
There are other benefits to regular exercise besides the immediate health effects. Today we’re looking at the benefits of physical activity and how seniors can incorporate regular movement into their lives.
Why Do Seniors Need Exercise?
Regular exercise is a form of preventative health care for older adults. Light physical activity, such as a brisk walk for 30 minutes a day, five days per week, is the recommended amount of exercise for adults 50 and older.
Reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke is a huge benefit of regular exercise. Light cardiovascular exercise improves the efficiency of the heart and lungs, strengthening them and keeping your blood vessels softer. That, in turn, reduces the chances of a dangerous blockage. The risk of Type 2 diabetes also increases with age. People who have a sedentary lifestyle, are overweight or obese, and who eat a diet high in processed foods and refined sugar are likely to become prediabetic, insulin resistant, and eventually diabetic.
Different types of activities can have other positive effects. Many popular senior fitness classes, like yoga, tai chi, and water aerobics, can help older people extend their range of motion and preserve their balance, significantly reducing fall risks.
The mental health benefits of exercise have long been established. Regular workouts trigger the brain to release dopamine, a “reward” hormone for completing a task that’s good for you, and serotonin, the “happy hormone” that naturally boosts your mood. Both hormones in healthy amounts help prevent depression and regulate your mood. Many seniors are vulnerable to developing depression, so regular exercise may help them reduce that risk.
Simple Exercises Your Aging Parent Can Do
Simple Senior Exercise #1: Walk With Weights
Walking is an ideal low-impact exercise for seniors – all they need are a pair of shoes! Take your walks outside to soak up some sunshine and Vitamin D, or inside at the mall to window shop while exercising. Walking with a dog or a companion is fun for a more social senior. Or, listen to a favorite podcast while you get your workout in.
Using light weights, about 1-3 pounds, while walking helps build lean muscle. Pump your arms while walking, or incorporate shoulder presses and other dumbbell exercises with your weights. Multiple reps with light weight is a safe way to preserve muscle, and the movements can help reduce stiffness in your joints.
Simple Senior Exercise #2: Low Impact “Sit and Be Fit”
Seated workouts are better for people with difficulty balancing, walking, or standing for long periods. Many senior centers offer fitness classes like chair yoga, which can be completed while seated.
Tai Chi helps with balance. Many poses can be modified for a limited range of motion, allowing seniors to reap the benefits of the routine without undue strain.
Other popular classes geared towards older adults include water aerobics and Silver Sneaker. Water helps support the body, allowing people with limited range of motion or poor mobility to move more freely without worrying about falling. Silver Sneakers is a specialized aerobics class designed with seniors in mind. Both of these are common at many gyms and senior centers, and a class’s social aspect may appeal to many people.
Simple Senior Exercise #3: Dance Classes
More active seniors may enjoy dance classes or dance-aerobics blends like Zumba. Or, perhaps your local community center or senior activities center offers ballroom or other dance classes, a fun way to get a workout in. Dancing for fitness can allow seniors to meet new friends in the class. And, the movements in the classes can help improve balance, range of motion, and agility.
Simple Senior Exercise #4: Regular Stretching
Active stretching may be underrated as an important physical activity for seniors. A long stretching period feels good and helps preserve your flexibility and reach. As we age, muscles may tighten, and without regular stretching, we may be unable to complete certain activities we used to do. Stretching is low-impact and can help ease stiffness in your joints. Before your active stretch session, warm up for a few minutes with light jogging in place or similar activity to get the blood flowing to your muscles. Stretching on “cold” muscles increases your chances of injury.
Look for “Yin Yoga” classes if you seek a community stretching session. Yin yoga combines long stretching with meditation in a peaceful, quiet environment.
Simple Senior Exercise #5: Play Time
Exercise doesn’t have to be confined to a class or a workout. Any physical activity is good for you, including playing and having fun! Whether you’re helping a grandchild practice sports or you join a local senior sports league, don’t neglect playtime in your life. Bowling is an excellent workout, combining regular lifting of heavier objects, balance, and hand-eye coordination. Many bowling alleys have leagues, too, which can help seniors with a small social circle make more friends. Or, join a local intramural sports team for older adults – you could pick up a sport you last played in high school or learn a new sport you’ve always wanted to try.
Are You Looking For a Senior Living Property For Yourself or a Loved One?
If you’re looking for senior living accommodations, like an assisted living facility or retirement community, that has on-site fitness or sports activities, a local senior care advisor can help. Assisted Living Locators can work with you and your senior to find properties that have a large fitness center or a regular schedule of fitness classes and sports activities so that you can incorporate regular exercise into your life.