No matter your age, exercise has many health benefits, such as reducing your risk of heart disease and diabetes as well as lowering your cholesterol and blood pressure. Physically, the benefits associated with incorporating exercise in senior care can almost seem endless.
For older adults, exercise can be helpful in slowing muscle loss and strengthening bones. These can especially help with reducing the risk of falling. Encouraging an elderly person to begin an exercise program can help to slow down the aging process and help them live a more vibrant and healthy life. The National Institute on Aging (NIA) recommends four types of exercise for seniors: endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility.
Each individual has different needs when it comes to exercise and varying health conditions that may need to be taken into consideration before beginning an exercise regimen. Always consult a health professional to determine the best approach to physical activity with senior care.
Endurance Exercises for Active Seniors
Endurance or conditioning exercises improve the health of the circulatory system, including the heart and lungs, by increasing your breathing and heart rate. Incorporating aerobic activities will help to improve cardiovascular health, as well as to help maintain a healthy weight. Examples of aerobic exercise are walking, water aerobics, and even dancing. One of the easiest endurance exercises for seniors is walking. This could include just walking around the neighborhood, choosing to walk instead of drive to a nearby location, or walking in a particular place, like a mall or on a track.
Another added benefit of conditioning exercises is that they can be fun and social. Walking or biking with friends doubles as a time to talk, while group exercise classes can be an opportunity to meet new people. Sports, like tennis, pickleball, golf, and seated volleyball are also good endurance exercises seniors can do with friends or in a group.
Balance Exercises for Active Seniors
Falling is the most common cause of injury in adults over the age of 65. Incorporating balance activities into senior care, such as tai chi or yoga, can greatly reduce their injury risk.
For those seniors who feel comfortable with balancing exercises, there are also a number that can be done at home or at the gym. Lifting one leg, even if just slightly off the ground, for ten seconds, tapping one toe in front of the body, or holding a chair and extending a leg to the side are simple balance exercises. Seniors more comfortable with their balance can also try walking while raising one knee or heel-toe walking (walking with one foot right behind the other).
Strength Exercises for Active Seniors
Older adults should also focus on strength exercises, since keeping muscles strong can help with balance. These don’t need to be intense workouts with strong weights; just using bodyweight or lightweights for just 20-30 minutes a day while sitting can be effective. Muscle and bone loss are both common in the aging process, so by incorporating appropriate weight-bearing exercises, the individual can help prevent this from happening. Osteoporosis is one condition that can greatly benefit from strength conditioning.
Some strength chair exercises for seniors can include sitting curls, sitting with overhead extensions, and front and side arm raises with light dumbbells. For the lower body, getting up and down out of a chair, straightening legs while sitting, and going from flat feet to standing on toes can be effective exercises. Usually, 10-15 repetitions of the exercise two to three times should feel strenuous. If lightweights don’t feel strenuous, increase the weight, not the repetitions.
Flexibility Exercises for Active Seniors
It is important to spend time flexing and stretching out the worked muscles after aerobic or strength exercises. Another benefit of a stretching routine is the improvement in flexibility that the individual will begin to see. An increase in flexibility with seniors can help them move around easier on a daily basis and help to reduce the risk of injury while completing daily tasks.
One increasingly popular exercise class is chair yoga. While many people think of yoga as complex poses hard for seniors with balance issues, chair yoga can provide a good balance exercise for seniors. This form of yoga uses a chair for balance and adapts traditional yoga poses for different ranges of motion and flexibility.
In addition to the many physical and general health benefits of physical activity, exercise promotes blood and oxygen flow to the brain, which in turn can greatly improve memory, the ability to learn new things and mental acuity. With regular exercise activities, active seniors can work to prevent, delay or even reverse mental illnesses, especially symptoms of anxiety or depression.
It is never too late to adopt an active lifestyle. Reducing the effects of age-related illness and improving overall well-being could be as easy as lacing up a pair of walking shoes.