How to Stay Healthy with Exercise for Seniors

As you age, you can feel your body starting to fight with you. There are aches and pains that appear overnight and activities that seem more difficult than usual. Exercising may feel hard or outright impossible, but this isn’t the truth.

A study by the National Institute for Health found that 67% of the older population were sedentary for more than 8.5 hours a day, showing a lack of exercise is an issue across the board for seniors. This can mean disastrous results for your body and for your health.

Knowing that senior fitness is so important, what can you do to keep in shape? We’ve listed some of the best exercises for seniors so you can stay on top of your game.

What are the benefits of exercise for seniors?

Older adults need exercise just the same as everyone else. According to the CDC, adults need a mix of moderate and vigorous intensity aerobic activities and muscle strengthening activities 2 or more days a week to stay fit.

Engaging in regular physical activity allows your body to:

  • Keep your blood pressure low
  • Reduce anxiety and depression symptoms
  • Help keep your bones, muscles, and joints healthy
  • Decrease risk of developing high blood pressure, some kinds of cancer, dementia, and diabetes
  • Help maintain ability to live independently or semi-independently
  • Reduce the risk of injury due to falling

Older adults may buy into some of the myths surrounding senior workouts that could be preventing you from exercising regularly. First, you may be worried that working out can put you at risk of falling down and injuring yourself. On the contrary, there are many workouts that can be modified to allow you to sit. Plus, an added benefit of exercise is it builds the muscle and bone mass to help prevent you from falling.

Seniors may also fall prey to the idea that one can be “too old to exercise.” However, anyone of any age can start exercising and see benefits from it. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services notes that adults of all ages and health backgrounds can engage in physical activity, and that regular physical activity is essential for healthy aging.

Which exercises for seniors are best?

The National Institute on Aging at the National Institute of Health separates exercises for seniors into four categories: endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility. Performing exercises that utilize all four categories ensures that your body will be getting the best exercise possible.

Endurance

Endurance activities increase breathing and heart rate and work to help improve the health of your heart, lungs, and circulatory system. They may also help delay or prevent diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and osteoporosis.

Endurance exercises can encompass a variety of workouts from walking, swimming, cycling, and more. For some seniors, sports can be a great way to get your heart pumping while incorporating a fun, competitive element. Even if you’re bound to a chair, you can still play games like seated volleyball or wheelchair basketball.

Strength

Using your muscles to build your strength is vital to being able to move around without injuring yourself and to be able to have a good quality of life. Upper body exercises can help you to retain your strength while lower body exercises can improve your balance.

Use small hand weights while standing or seated to improve your arm strength with curls or raises. You can also utilize leg raises or chair stands to work on lower body strength. Don’t forget to alternate the arms and legs that you’re using to equally build strength on both sides.

Balance

Falls are the cause for numerous injuries and deaths for older Americans. Being able to build your balance can prevent a trip to the hospital or worse.

Exercises like yoga and standing on one foot can be great for those trying to build balance. If you doubt your ability to stay standing up, don’t be afraid to use another chair or sturdy piece of support to hold yourself up if necessary.

Flexibility

Keeping your muscles flexible is vital to ensuring that your body is able to handle basic tasks. As you age, your muscles shrink and lose the elasticity they once had, causing a decreased range of motion that can be incredibly painful.

Stretching can help your muscles to stay limber. Be sure to warm up before going any stretch so you don’t hurt yourself, and when in doubt, never force a stretch. Workouts are most effective when all groups in your body – including your neck, shoulders, arms, back and legs – are flexible and have been stretched.

What shouldn’t I do?

While exercising is important to maintain senior fitness, there are some workouts that can be detrimental to your health.

Some exercises that can be more hurtful than helpful are:

  • Abdominal crunches. Crunches push your naturally curved spine back into the ground, an action that is repeated for numerous repetitions. This can cause a great deal of back pain and can hurt your neck muscles in the long run.
  • Climbing stairs. While climbing stairs can be helpful to build muscle in your legs, they come with a set of risks. A study from the Netherlands found that 51% of falls that occured while indoors happened while walking up and down the stairs. As you age, it’s safer to walk or jog on flatter land.
  • Leg press. Pushing your feet against a weighted platform causes your back to shift out of its natural arch, causing potential to damage your spinal discs.

Any time you start a new exercise regimen it’s important to work with a trained professional to find a routine that works best for your body. Don’t be afraid to start exercising, and know that keeping fit will keep you happier and healthier in the long run.

 

At Culpepper Place, we understand the importance of keeping our residents healthy and fit.

Contact us to learn more about our wellness programs and why Culpepper Place would be a great fit for you or a loved one.