As we age, our bodies encounter different challenges and obstacles. For older adults, exercising is about more than just maintaining a healthy weight. It’s also a great way to help prevent illnesses, injuries and pain. Find out more about what exercises are best for seniors and what benefits they provide.
Consideration for Senior Exercise
Due to their age, seniors are at a greater risk for a wide variety of diseases, illnesses and injuries compared to younger folks. Exercising is one of the best ways to help compensate for that increased risk. According to the National Institutes of Health, there are four main types of exercises that seniors should try to do on a regular basis:
- Endurance activities: Exercises like walking, swimming and bicycling are great for combating seniors’ increased risk for heart and circulatory problems.
- Strengthening exercises: People lose muscle and bone density as they age, so strengthening exercises help to counteract both of these problems.
- Stretching exercises: This helps older joints and muscles to stay limber and flexible.
- Balancing exercises: Seniors are especially prone to falls, so balance exercises are a great way to help prevent these types of injuries.
In addition to the physical benefits, there are plenty of other ways that exercise can improve life for seniors. It can help them remain independent and continue doing things on their own later in life. It’s also helpful for preventing depression and anxiety, managing stress, improving your mood and remaining socially active. Studies show that exercise may also be related to better cognitive function.
Exercises for Seniors
Now that you know the benefits of exercising for seniors, it’s time to get started. The following are some specific exercises from the categories listed above that are great for seniors:
- Endurance: When it comes to gaining and maintaining endurance, aerobic activities are the best choice. The great thing about endurance exercises is that there are so many various activities to choose from, including:
- Water exercise classes
- Low-impact aerobics classes
- Chores like raking or gardening
Seniors with joint problems should look for low-impact endurance activities that can boost their endurance. Water exercise classes are a great choice since they remove almost all pressure from the joints. Another option is using exercise machines like rowing machines or elliptical machines.
- Strengthening: The best way to improve bone density and build muscle is by working with weights. However, free weights are slightly more dangerous for seniors, so it’s best to stick to weight machines and/or resistance bands. Make sure you work all the muscle groups, including the arms, chest, back, stomach, hips and legs. Those with osteoporosis should always talk to their doctor before starting new strengthening exercises. Some simple at-home exercises can also be effective, such as:
- Sitting in a chair and raising a leg straight out in front of you
- Holding on to a chair and slowly standing up on tiptoes
- Sitting in a chair and grasping the armrests to raise and lower yourself in the seat
- Sitting in a chair and raising the arms out to the sides while holding small free weights
- Doing curls with small free weights
- Stretching: Flexibility and agility decrease with age, so doing regular stretching exercises is a great way for seniors to avoid muscle stiffness or soreness. It also helps to reduce the risk of injury. Some of the most popular stretching exercises for seniors are yoga and tai chi classes. Seniors should also stretch major muscle groups in the neck, back, arms, legs and hips on a regular basis, holding each stretch for about 10 to 30 seconds.
- Balancing: According to the National Institutes of Health, more than one-third of people age 65 and older fall each year. Balance exercises help to prevent falls and increase independence for seniors. The following are a few good balance exercises to try:
- Walking heel to toe in a straight line
- Holding on to a chair and balance on one foot for 10 seconds at a time
- Holding on to a chair and raising one leg back for one second
- Holding on to a chair and raising one leg to the side for one second
The best way to integrate these exercises into your routine is to create a schedule where a combination of different exercises or activities is done each day. Make sure you are doing something from each of the four main exercise categories over the course of the week. Begin with just a few minutes of each at a time and slowly increase as your stamina and strength increase.
Seniors should remember to start out slowly with any new exercise, especially if they haven’t been physically active on a regular basis. For the best results, ask your doctor about which exercises will be the best for you based on your personal health history and physical condition.