As we age, we have a tendency to slow down and do less. We also begin to lose muscle mass, and there’s very few of us who don’t pack on a few extra pounds. Seniors tend to have more aches and pains and are often afraid that exercise will only make it worse, but this is not the case. Seniors may actually benefit from exercising even more than younger folks.
There are four basic areas that seniors should concentrate on when it comes to exercise. They are: strength, balance, stretching, and endurance. The great thing about exercise is that it not only helps you physically, but it also helps fight depression, and can help you trim those extra pounds.
Here are 10 ways for seniors to accomplish these goals and stay fit and healthy for a long time to come.
1. Walking. It’s free, it’s easy, and it can be done anywhere. All you really need is a good pair of walking shoes. You can walk in your neighborhood, at the park, or even inside your house. Many seniors like to walk at their local mall, where you are protected from the weather and where you can meet other senior walkers. Walking is great cardiovascular exercise and will help to keep your heart strong as you age. It’s also low impact, which means it’s easy on the joints. You can start out with short walks and build up to longer and faster walks. Walking can build muscle mass in your legs and helps keep your bones healthy by putting weight on them.
2. Yoga. Yoga is a great way to improve strength, flexibility, and balance. It’s also a fantastic way to relax and unwind after a stressful day; a great benefit for your physical and mental health. Don’t worry about difficulty; there are easier poses that are fantastic for seniors. There’s even a form of yoga that involves posing with a chair which is safe and beneficial even as you age.
3. Tai Chi. Tai chi is a gentle, flowing, low-impact exercise that works to tone and stretch the muscles. It is based on martial arts, but moves slowly from pose to pose. Tai Chi focuses on breathing and reduces stress, while improving flexibility, balance, and strength. It doesn’t require any special equipment or clothing, but is best done in loose clothing. You can find Tai Chi classes at your local gym, community center, hospital, or tai chi studio; or you can rent or buy Tai Chi tapes to use at home.
4. Stretching. This is an easy and simple way to keep your body limber and flexible. Just take a few minutes, two or three times a day to do some stretches. Pick several stretches so you can work the different parts of your body. It’s simple, easy, and safe. Plus, if you’re in decent shape and a bit adventurous; you can try dynamic stretching. You simply stretch as you move instead of stretching and holding. If you try this be sure to only move as far as you’d normally be able to; don’t try to overextend.
5. Weight lifting. As we get older, we begin to lose muscle mass. By lifting weights, you can stop and even reverse this muscle loss. Regular weight bearing exercise can also be beneficial is keeping your bones strong and healthy. You can work on machines at the gym, lift free weights at home, or even do reps with items you have around the house.
6. Dancing. Want to get a workout and probably not even realize it? Then get your spouse or a group of friends and go out dancing. Not only do you get a great cardio workout, you also work many of your major muscle groups all at the same time. You don’t have to spin around crazy on the floor to get a workout; just dance however you feel comfortable. The best thing about dancing is that it’s fun, so you’ll want to do it all the time.
7. Swimming. Many places have swimming classes just for seniors, including warm-water exercises for arthritis. Check with your local community center, hospital, or “Y”. Exercising in water is very relaxing, and is a great way to loosen up stiff muscles and joints. Water aerobic classes can give you a great cardio workout – believe it or not, you can actually sweat in the water!
8. Senior Exercise Classes. Your local community center or hospital will undoubtedly have a variety of exercise classes specifically for seniors. Weight lifting, chair exercise, classes for the wheelchair-bound, and others.
9. Find a sport that you enjoy. Bicycling is easy on the joints, great for balance, provides a great cardio workout, and will get you out and about, seeing the sights. Golf will have you walking, and bowling will work many muscles, including your back, legs, and (at least one) shoulder, hand, and wrist.
10. Build simple exercises into your daily routine. Do neck rolls and shoulder rolls during TV commercials. Do toe raises while talking on the phone. Grab a couple of cans of veggies and do some arm curls while waiting for the oven to heat up. Tighten and release your stomach muscles while sitting at a stoplight. You can find dozens of times and ways to get in a simple exercise throughout your day. Remember, it’s important to talk to your doctor before starting any exercise routine. They can tell you what workout is best for you. So, got to your doctor, then get up and get some exercise.