As you get older, your body may begin to show signs of aging. Not just wrinkles, but joint pain, conditions like diabetes and heart disease, and even weaker, more brittle bones and cognitive decline. It can be frightening to think about, but the good news is that there’s something that has been shown to help—regular exercise.
Stats on Exercise & Older Adults
It’s no secret that exercise is important to your health at every age, but it may be even more important as you get older. That’s right, older adults can gain quite a bit by staying active. Unfortunately, not everyone does, as the statistics below show:
- According to the website for the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition, “Only 35-44% if adults 75 years or older are physically active, and 28-34% of adults ages 65 to 74 are physically active” (Source).
- According to an article that appeared in the January 2010 issue of American Family Physician, “few older adults in the United States achieve the minimum recommended amount of physical activity … lack of physical activity contributes to many chronic diseases that occur in older adults, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes mellitus, lung disease, Alzheimer’s disease, hypertension, and cancer” (Source).
- According to How Stuff Works, an older (1995) survey from the National Center for Health Statistics states that “only about 25 percent of older Americans get exercise regularly,” (Source) and another episode claims that “58 percent of older Americans believe they get as much exercise as they need.”
The Benefits of Exercise for Seniors
Exercise is one of the healthiest things you can do, which you already know. Because regular exercise can do so much to improve your overall health, it’s important to adopt a regular exercise routine and to make sure you’re getting the daily recommended amount. This is especially true for older adults because physical activity and staying active can help maintain your independence.
So what exactly can exercise offer seniors? Plenty.
- It helps strengthen your heart and improves your circulation
- Exercise helps keep your blood pressure and cholesterol at healthier levels
- It may aid in healthy weight loss and weight control
- Exercise keep yours joints health, strong, and flexible
- It can help improve muscle tone and increases your overall strength and endurance
Recommended Levels of Activity for Older Adults
The World Health Organization (WHO) states that “in adults aged 65 years and above, physical activity includes leisure time physical activity (walking, dancing, gardening, etc.), transportation (walking, cycling, etc.) occupational, household chores, play, games, sports, or planned exercise, in the context of daily, family, and community activities” (Source).
Exercise recommendations for seniors are as follows:
- 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week, plus muscle-strengthening activities at least two days every week (Source)
- Aerobic activity should be performed in bouts of at least 10-minute durations (Source)
- Older adults, with poor mobility, should perform physical activity to enhance balance and prevent falls on 3 or more days every week (Source)
- When older adults can’t do the recommended amounts due to health conditions, they should be as physically active as their conditions allow (Source)
There is no shortage of activities to partake in, either. Aerobic activities include walking, cycling, dancing, and walking, while muscle-strengthening activities include yoga and calisthenics, but also things like carrying groceries, some yard work activities, and even washing windows around the house.
This Week’s Workout
Be sure to check with your healthcare provider before you begin.
Activity Breakdown & Benefits
Aerobic Activities: As you already know, there are any number of aerobic activities you can choose from. The best part? The benefits are amazing (and numerous). From calorie burning and healthier cholesterol and blood pressure levels to joint maintenance, improved heart health, and better energy levels, something as simple as walking on a regular basis offers a great health boost.
Squats: This exercise is a great muscle-building activity. While seeing the benefits may take longer than other exercises, it’s definitely worth. Squats allow you to start slow, and you can work with a sturdy chair for balance and good form.
Arm Raises: If you’d like, you can complete these with light resistance bands or weights. You can sit or stand and hold your weights at shoulder level. Simply lift them above your head and bring them back down. Repeat. Arm raises offer a simple way to maintain upper body strength and healthy muscle tone, plus you can do side arm raises, if you’d like to.
Bicep Curls: As you get older, you may realize that lifting something like a gallon of milk has become harder to do. Completing bicep curls regularly can help maintain healthy muscle tone and strength. This exercise can be done as you sit or stand, and require weights you’re comfortable with.
Push-Ups: Not everyone can complete push-ups, and if you can’t, that’s okay. However, if you can, it’s important to make sure your form is correct. Proper push-ups form helps strengthen muscles in your arms, shoulders, and chest. If you’re not a fan of conventional push-ups, you can complete wall push-ups, too.
Leg Raises: When completing this exercise, be sure you’re standing comfortably. It’s okay to hold on to a chair for better balance. Leg raises help strengthen your thighs, buttocks, lower back muscles, and your hips. They can even improve your balance! Lifting one leg out to the side, while keeping it straight then lower it back down again. Seems simple, right?
Lower Body Stretches: Start this one by standing behind a chair. Bring your leg up behind you, grab your foot, and keep your thigh as perpendicular to the floor as possible. When you hold this stretch for 30 seconds, you’re working your thigh muscles and your hips. And don’t forget to complete it on both legs!
Upper Body Stretches: These exercises will strengthen your chest and shoulder muscles. Stand straight with your arms at your sides. Grasp your hands behind your back and pull your shoulders back, slightly arching your back. Hole this for 30 seconds, then repeat.
Yoga & Pilates: These activities are beneficial, but low-impact, which is good if you have limited mobility or joint pain. These lower impact exercise forms (along with tai chi and light weight training) put much less strain on your body, while still helping you remain active. They’re also great for easing you into a new exercise program.
The Importance of Recovery
Proper exercise recovery is important for people of all ages—even seniors. Healthy muscle strength and tone is dependent on protein and proper hydration, so it’s important to get enough water every day. It’s also important to get good amounts of protein.
Some of our favorite protein supplements are below:
- Viva Vanilla Protein Smoothie from Vega
- Peanut Butter Crunch fucoProtein High Protein Bar by Garden of Life
- Strawberry Blast Mitocore Rice Protein from Ortho Molecular
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