Welcome to Senior Fitness 101! If there’s any time when fitness matters most, it’s during the golden years. But that leaves many questions unanswered.
In this guide, you’ll learn about the different types of physical activity, why every senior needs a fitness plan, the best and worst exercises for seniors, and safety tips!
Your senior fitness class is officially in session.
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Types of Senior Fitness Exercise & Physical Activity
Everyone should exercise, no matter how old they are. Physical activity keeps our bones, muscles, and mind in great shape. As we age, fitness becomes even more critical.
It allows us to stay strong and flexible and is a great way to prevent injuries and illnesses and slow down the aging process.
Fitness for seniors has gained popularity over time as people start to realize the benefits it brings. If you want to stay healthy, keep reading to see our list of best exercises for older adults.
The best senior care Houston has to offer will tell you that engaging in physical activities and exercising is an essential aspect of staying healthy for almost everyone, including the elderly.
There are four main types of exercise and physical activities, each yielding its own unique set of benefits. Here’s a look at each:
Aerobic/Endurance for Seniors
These are activities that increase your heart rate and breathing. Some aerobic activities and exercises include swimming, biking, dancing, jogging, running, and other similar activities.
Aerobic exercises help keep your entire cardiovascular system healthy. There are many aerobic senior fitness classes for seniors available.
You can probably find many gyms that offer these classes, but you can always find great courses online if you prefer to stay at home.
Remember that you can always modify any exercise to your fitness level; always listen to your body.
Walk and Roll!
Endurance exercises raise your heart rate and increase breathing. Not only do endurance exercises improve lung and heart health, but they can also make everyday life easier.
You can walk longer distances, complete more chores in a day, and keep up with younger members of your family.
Walking or rolling (if you use a wheelchair) are beginner-friendly and effective modes of exercise.
Both can be social, and you can squeeze them into your day seamlessly because you often need to get to places anyway! For example, instead of driving to the grocery store, walk or roll there.
If it’s close by, use a longer, more scenic route.
A fitness device can help you track your steps. Getting 10,000 steps a day means you’re getting enough endurance activity. More than that means you’re highly active.
Start both your endurance routine and step-tracking small. You don’t need to conquer a walkathon right away. Instead, start with a 10-minute session and slowly work up from there.
Strength Training for Seniors
These are activities and exercises that increase your muscle strength. Some strength training activities include lifting weights and exercising with resistance bands.
Strength training is one of the best types of exercise for seniors. It strengthens your muscles and your bones, which can help decrease your risk of osteoporosis or help you slow it down.
As we age, our muscles start to deteriorate.
Strength training keeps our muscles strong and keeps us safe when we do all types of movements, from standing up to picking something up from the floor.
Dumbbells Not Required
Seniors may avoid strength exercises because they fear getting hurt or don’t want to purchase expensive equipment. But strength exercises can be accessible, affordable, and safe.
These exercises can include wall push-ups, hand grips, knee curls, and more.
The National Institute on Aging had the following recommendations for handling strength training:
- Do strength training exercises two or more days a week.
- Aim for 30-minute sessions.
- Engage all muscle groups, but don’t exercise the same muscle group two days in a row.
- If you use weights, gradually add on more weights. You can add heavier weights once you can do two sets of 10-15 repetitions.
For any of these strength exercises, specialized equipment is not mandatory.
Body-weight exercises using your body’s natural resistance, such as wall push-ups and chair dips, can be done at home with limited space.
Senior Fitness Balance Exercises
This variety of exercises are designed to improve your balance, thereby preventing you from falling.
Activities such as yoga, water aerobics, and Pilates can help strengthen your core and increase your balance.
Keeping your core strong is key to balancing, as it is what helps keep your body centered. If you have ever slipped and managed to steady yourself and not fall, you have your core to thank.
Stay on Top of Fitness with Balancing Exercises
One common fear among older adults is the chance of falling and injuring themselves.
You can help prevent this fear from becoming a reality with balancing exercises. Start by holding on to a sturdy piece of furniture for support with both hands. Then, gradually let go.
Staring at a fixed point also helps with balance. Once you’re up for a challenge, try balancing with your eyes closed.
Tai chi, a gentle martial art popular with seniors, can be a great balancing exercise option. Many practitioners do tai chi outside.
Doing this allows them to get fresh air, spend time in nature, and engage in a bit of mindfulness meditation.
Physical activity can be a challenge, but the benefits often outweigh the risks. For one, exercise can be a social activity that lifts your mood.
What’s more, exercising allows you to feel strong, competent, and confident in your body.
Flexibility Exercises for Seniors
These are exercises that stretch your joints and connective muscles, thereby helping you stay limber.
With the above in mind, it is important to stagger your progress as far as exercising is concerned, especially if you have not been exercising. Start slow and progress slowly to meet your goals.
Additionally, it is essential to note that your exercise requirements depend on your health and age. As such, check with your physician to know what is right for you.
Generally, people aged 65 and above should engage in exercises dependent on their health and age.
Moreover, older adults need to focus on doing two physical activities every week: muscle-strengthening and aerobic exercises.
Good for Everyday Life
Flexibility often decreases with age. Joints and muscles get stiff when you don’t use them as much.
This issue can make everyday activities tougher to handle. To make those activities easier, try doing flexibility exercises.
A popular form of flexibility-focused exercise is yoga, and it offers plenty of health benefits. For instance, exercise can reduce lower back pain, increase relaxation, and improve flexibility.
If you’re interested in yoga, start with finding a senior class. Having a qualified and experienced instructor guide you along can help prevent strains, sprains, and other injuries that might hurt you.
The unique thing about yoga is that it is both a physical and mental exercise. Time spent practicing the exercise will help you focus on breathing, relaxing, and listening to your body.
You can also practice yoga at home with limited space.
To get started, find a qualified yoga instructor near you through the website Yoga for Seniors.
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The Importance of Physical Activities for Seniors
Senior Fitness: It seems that we see these two words together more and more these days. And for a good reason.
The health benefits provided through an appropriate fitness program and a sensible diet are undeniable.
Exercise and nutrition go hand in hand to build strong bones and muscles. Together, they help reduce blood pressure and that nasty gunk that builds up in those precious arteries.
You know, that stuff your doctor keeps hollering at you about every visit.
They call it plaque. Exercise also increases flexibility and decreases depression. But I am willing to bet you already know the reasons why you should exercise and eat right.
Now that you know about the different types of exercise let’s talk about their benefits.
The Benefits of Exercise for Seniors
Senior citizens can gain a lot from the exercise. The most basic of the benefits of engaging in physical activities is that it makes you feel better on an emotional and physical level.
However, there are plenty of other benefits to accrue from physical activities, including:
- Helping control your blood pressure, weight, and cholesterol levels while helping you manage conditions and ailments such as diabetes, arthritis, and other bone and joint problems.
- Better sleep
- Higher energy levels
- Improved mood
- Reduces the risk of a stroke, heart attack, and even some cancers
- Helps with pain management
- Improves joint movement
- Reduces the risk of falling, a primary concern as you age
- Physical activity can also prevent or delay chronic illnesses and help people living with diabetes and heart disease.
Senior Fitness: Type, Time, & Intensity
It is safe to say that the fitness routine from your college years or early 30s is too intense for you now. Getting fit without overdoing means learning which types of exercise you need and how long and how intensely to do them.
Before you start or choose a routine, learn about the following:
How Much Physical Activity Is Enough for Seniors?
If you are 65 or older, are fit, and do not have any ailments or health issues that affect your mobility, you should try and exercise or be active daily.
Ideally, you should engage in at least 30 minutes of moderately intense activities on most days, if not all days.
That said, engaging in some activities is better than engaging in none. You should aim to do something, your age, weight, ailments, and abilities notwithstanding.
Your goals should be to be as active as possible, engaging in activities that activate your flexibility, balance, strength, and general fitness.
What Is Moderate-Intensity on The Aerobic Front?
These types of activities are the activities that raise your heart rate and breathing just enough to make you break a sweat.
If you can walk but cannot sing when you are engaged in an activity, that is moderate-intensity activity.
Some of the activities classified as moderate-intensity activities include:
- Fast walking,
- Water aerobics,
- Line and ballroom dancing,
- Cycling on level ground or a low gradient hill,
- Playing doubles tennis,
- Playing volleyball, and
- Lawn mowing.
Some of the daily routine exertions we engage in do does not count. As such, activities like shopping, housework, and cooking do not count toward your 30-minutes of exercising.
They are not hard enough to break a sweat and raise your heart rate.
As much as you exercise daily, you must also minimize the length of time you spend sitting down: watching TV, listening to music, or doing other activities.
A sedentary life is very harmful to your health. Physical inactivity is a leading cause of many diseases, from circulatory problems to cancer and even psychological disorders.
If you are sitting, standing, or lying down for long periods, you’ll start to feel discomfort. A good practice is to make sure to move your body at least once or twice per hour.
You can walk around or stretch a little to give your body a little energy boost.
What Is Vigorous-Intensity on The Aerobic Front?
Vigorous-intensity activities are the sort of activities that cause you to breathe heavily, hard, and fast while increasing your heart rate a lot.
When carrying out such activities, you will not be capable of saying more than a few words without pausing for breath. If you feel unwell, you should stop.
According to the Australian Physical Activity Guide for Older Australians, it is not recommendable for the elderly to exercise at this level a lot.
If you have lived a life of vigorous exercising or physical activities, you can carry on keeping safety in mind. Importantly, follow the recommended procedure and guidelines.
Different Muscle-Strengthening Exercises for Seniors
Muscle-strengthening exercises get counted as repetitions and sets. A rep is a complete movement of the exercise routine, such as lifting weights or doing a sit-up. A set entails grouping reps.
For the recommended activities, try to carry out 7 to 13 reps for a complete set. Furthermore, try to do a set that targets every muscle group.
However, if you can, do 3 to 4 sets. Try to push on until you feel it is becoming tough to carry on to gain from this type of exercise.
Examples of muscle-strengthening exercises include:
- Moving or carrying heavy loads such as groceries
- Stepping and jumping activities such as dancing
- Heavy gardening, including digging or shoveling
- Exercises that deploy your body weight as resistance weight, including as push-ups or sit-ups
- Lifting weights
For the best outcome, do strength exercises 2 to 3 times every week.
If you are new to training (especially with weights), make sure to enlist the help of a knowledgeable friend or a personal trainer.
They will be able to teach you the proper form to prevent any injuries.
If weight training is not your cup of tea, don’t worry! Senior fitness should be about staying active and having fun. The best way to find something you like is to try new things.
There are many different types of exercises for older adults, so you will find one that you love.
Senior Fitness Safety Tips
Aches and pains are a normal part of the aging process. However, the last thing you want to do is hurt yourself while exercising and trying to get fit.
There are specific exercises you should avoid, while others make great alternatives.
Look at these exercise safety tips for seniors:
Exercise is safe for most people. However, you should chat with your doctor first if you:
- Are over 50 and not physically active
- Possess a health condition like heart disease or diabetes
- Have a health symptom not yet diagnosed
- Have recently undergone a medical procedure
A few additional safety tips include:
- Breathing during strength exercises — it’s natural to want to hold your breath, but don’t; breathe out during exertion, and breathe in as you relax.
- Using all appropriate safety equipment
- Avoiding bending at the waist — you’re likely turning wrong if your back forms a hump shape.
- Remembering to warm up, cool down, and start slow
Exercising with Arthritis
Many older adults have arthritis, which can cause pain when exercising. However, exercise is good for people with arthritis.
To make sure you can exercise comfortably with arthritis, talk to your doctor. Your doctor may prescribe you a medication like celecoxib (CELEBREX®) to help manage your condition.
If the medication seems too expensive, consider accessing affordable international and Canadian pharmacy meds through referral sites like Canada Med Pharmacy.
They will ship prescription medication straight to you from licensed pharmacies abroad.
How to Choose a Senior Fitness Program (& Get Fit)
Now, we know which exercises are the best, which are the worst, and why you should start a program.
Yes, you can start a health journey with a gym membership or with simple at-home senior fitness workouts.
But if you’re looking for a senior fitness program loaded with health benefits while meeting your specific needs.
Here are some senior fitness tips for finding and choosing a program:
Measuring Senior Fitness
As fitness professionals, we get taught many ways of measuring fitness. Fitness can get measured in terms of body fat percentages, blood pressure readings, and heart rates.
However, you cannot measure the most important benefits of exercise and nutrition with any instrument.
- carrying a sack of groceries up a flight of stairs without your heart bursting into a million pieces
- falling up those stairs and not having to wear a body cast for the next six weeks
- holding yourself up straight and tall without the aid of a steel rod in your spine
I could go on and on, but you get the idea.
Enjoying Senior Fitness
Most folks have engaged in a fitness program at one time or another. But one of the most common reasons for not continuing with the program is because it just doesn’t fit our lifestyles.
A good fitness program is one that you will continue for the rest of your life. It’s not something you do for a couple of months to lose a few pounds.
You do it because it makes you feel good. It’s something you do because it’s fun and you want to do it. That’s right; I said fun.
If the program is not enjoyable or forces you to eat foods that you must choke down, you will not stick with it. The fitness lifestyle is something you can accomplish in baby steps.
It just doesn’t happen overnight.
Steps to Senior Fitness
The first step on the road to fitness is to talk with your doctor to find out your limitations if you have any. The next step is to do your homework.
Find out what senior fitness programs are available in your area. Community centers are an excellent source of various programs.
Fitness professionals can also introduce you to all the different types of exercise known today. Keep trying other things until you find the right fit.
Try different foods and recipes until you find healthy alternatives that you enjoy eating. Over time you will have developed the ideal fitness program for you.
One that you want to engage in every day. One that doesn’t make you feel that you are in boot camp or that you will surely starve to death.
What are you “weighting” for?
That’s everything you need to know about staying — or getting — fit in your senior years.
Now, we want to hear from you! What does your current fitness plan look like? Or, if you’re a newbie, how do you plan to get active?