4 Exercises to Help Seniors Stay Healthy and Fit
It’s normal to face some mobility and movement challenges as you grow older, but that doesn’t mean you must passively accept this as your fate. Taking a proactive approach with exercise can help you remain healthy and fit no matter what your age. Regular exercise offers numerous benefits besides weight loss or maintenance. Some of the most important ones include:
- Lowers blood pressure
- Lowers bad cholesterol and increases good cholesterol
- Reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke
- Reduces the risk of osteoporosis by strengthening muscles, tendons, bones, and ligaments
- Improves your quality of sleep
- Stabilizes mood and improves memory and cognition
Taken together, these benefits help you retain your independence as you grow older. That means, you get to enjoy the activities you have always enjoyed and live where you want to live.
If you haven’t exercised in a while, be sure to get a complete physical exam first and let your doctor know about your plan. Make it a goal to start slowly and gradually increase your endurance. For example, start by walking an extra 10 minutes a day. Once you feel comfortable with that, add five more minutes and continue this cycle until you feel you have reached your maximum level of endurance.
Exercises to Improve Balance
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that 2.5 million older Americans sustain injuries in a fall serious enough to send them to the emergency room each year. Considering this, it only makes sense to incorporate exercises that improve your balance. To start your balance exercises, find a sturdy chair in your home and stand behind it. After ensuring that the chair won’t tip over easily, follow these steps:
- Place one hand on your hip and the other hand on the back of the chair
- Slowly lift your right leg while slightly bending your knee at the same time
- Hold your leg in place for 10 seconds and then relax
- Repeat the above step 9 more times with your right leg and then 10 times with your left
Exercises to Improve Flexibility
Stretching is important to help maintain flexibility in your joints. As you get older, you may notice that it feels painful to reach for something on a high shelf or that your hand becomes cramped when you write for more than a few minutes. Before you start with stretching exercises, be sure to warm up by marching in place or walking for up to five minutes. Once you’re ready to stretch, try these steps:
- Turn your head slowly to the right until you feel it stretch
- Hold this pose for 30 seconds without tilting your head backwards
- Repeat the above while turning your head to the left and then repeat on each side three times
To improve your strength to complete everyday tasks such as carrying groceries, invest in a one or two-pound dumbbell and then try several different weight-lifting exercises. Chest presses and bicep curls are just two examples. Your own body weight can also provide resistance when you complete exercises like squats and lunges. Be sure to vary your strength-training exercises so all major muscle groups benefit.
Aerobic exercise is anything that increases your heart rate and helps you build physical endurance. For older adults, the CDC recommends low-impact activities such as water aerobics, walking, swimming, and riding a bike. If you’re feeling especially adventurous, consider joining a local gym that offers dancing lessons or tai chi.
Aim for 30 Minutes of General Fitness Every Day
While you might only be able to manage a few minutes a day at first, aim to achieve 30 minutes of physical activity daily. It won’t take long before you enjoy greater strength, flexibility, balance, and other benefits of a physically active lifestyle.