Exercise in aging is a key part of a healthy lifestyle in your senior years. It helps decrease the risk for health conditions such as coronary artery disease and cancer. Staying fit also helps manage illnesses such as diabetes, depression, autoimmune disorders, and arthritis. Getting regular exercise can also help you build a stronger immune system. For seniors, there are even more benefits.
Exercise and the Older Adult
Age-related muscle loss can begin as early as age thirty. It often leads to decreased mobility and lack of flexibility in older adults. Regular exercise can help prevent or slow that deterioration. It can also improve core strength, balance, flexibility and coordination. Each of these is key to helping prevent falls and disabling injuries related to falls.
Exercise also helps promote a good night’s sleep. Older adults often struggle with sleep disorders in higher numbers than younger adults. Getting regular exercise frequently leads to longer, better quality sleep.
How to Start an Exercise Routine in Later Life
FamilyDoctor.org advises a few groups of seniors to first talk with their physician before beginning a new form of exercise. Those groups include older adults with:
• Heart disease
• High blood pressure
They also suggest talking with your doctor first if you have led a largely sedentary lifestyle.
As a general guideline, you should try to perform 30 minutes of some form of aerobic exercise most days of the week. In addition, you should also incorporate strength training in to your fitness routine twice a week.
Don’t forget the warm up and the cool down. Both can help prevent injuries. Walk slowly and stretch for 5 – 10 minutes before beginning your exercise program. Do the same thing to cool down after your workout.
Senior-Friendly Exercise Programs
If you or an older loved one need ideas for developing a safe exercise routine, these resources may help:
• Go4Life: A comprehensive fitness program from The National Institute on Aging, Go4Life is free to join and participate in. They share resources on exercise, safety, motivation and more. That includes free DVDs mailed to your home.
• Growing Stronger: Strength Training for Older Adults: This guide is free from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). It provides tips for getting started with a strength training program, a quiz to measure your strength, goal setting and ideas for staying motivated and not giving up.
• Silver Sneakers: This national program allows seniors who are members to workout at a variety of locations in their own community. Sites range from the local YMCA to assisted living communities. Many insurance plans cover membership fees to encourage seniors to get the exercise they need to stay fit and reduce falls.
• ElderGym: Is a senior focused fitness site that shares resources ranging from helpful articles to DVDs and ebooks.
• Exercise Plan for Seniors: This Health Line site can help older adults develop a workout schedule that incorporates flexibility, strength, stretching and balance.
Our final tip is to enlist a workout buddy. It will help make you more accountable to your goals as well as make it more fun to exercise.