The other day, I met my school days friend. During the conversation, he expressed his interest in starting exercising. But he was apprehensive – that if he start exercising at his age of 68, he might injure himself.
I told him that I started exercising at the age of 66, and now at 69 I feel fit & healthier than ever before.
Our conversation inspired me to write a series of articles on a subject near and dear to my heart: fitness and aging. Read on, I am going to share guidance tips on do’s & don’ts, as well as the importance of a regular fitness workout routine as we age.
A regular exercise routine can improve flexibility and balance, which in turn help seniors avoid falls and live active independent life – without depending on others.
Whereas there are a number of examples of astonishing fitness achievements of senior people (for example Jack LaLanne at age 60 swimming to Alcatraz while handcuffed), most of us are happy just to get in good shape without injury.
Exercise Tips For Seniors & Elderly
A basic principle that you should always keep in mind is to start with low impact and slow speed, and then gradually progress as your body gets accustomed & more conditioned.
It’s Never Too Late To Start Exercising!
The advantages of exercise are well supported with evidence and particularly important for senior folks. A recent Swedish research study reported that physical activity was the top most contributor to longevity, adding extra years to your life – even if you don’t take up exercising until your old age (60s, 70s or 80s).
Most elderly people worry they are too aged to start working out, but there is nothing that says you can’t begin regular exercise just because you’ve turned 60, 70 or even 80. Actually, the tangible benefits of regular exercise can be just as great at 60, 70 or 80 as they were at 20 or 30.
As you age, regular exercise is one of the best well-documented ways to maintain your body function and personal independence. Exercise leads to better digestive and immune functioning, improved blood pressure and bone density and a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease, obesity, diabetes, cardio-vascular disease, osteoporosis and certain cancers.
Exercise also improves flexibility & balance, with many documented studies showing that walking for just 30 minutes a day lowers falling and fracture risks – for example hip fracture risk by 25% to 30%.
[Read on: It’s Never Too Late To Start Exercise – How?]
Where Should You Start?
Finding the motivation to begin working out is challenging at any age, but many elderly feel dispirited by pains & aches or they worry about getting injuries. Some of my clients have divulged to me they are scared to begin exercise because they suffer from arthritis and petrified that exercise will harm them further – but the fact is it’s all myth.
Physical movements nourish muscles, joints, bones and cartilage. So exercise can improve joint mobility and reduce arthritis pain. Stretching and exercises focused on balance ease off aches and lessen injury risk by strengthening your body.
Getting more active can upbeat your mood, ease stress, help you manage symptoms of pain & illness and boost your overall sense of well-being. If you are considering to begin exercise, I recommend two things: set a schedule, and find a mentor or friend for exercising.
By setting a routine, it makes easier for you to incorporate exercise schedule into your life. Remember, you don’t have to workout every day –your body needs time to rest and recover.
It’s easier to follow your exercise schedule when you take it as a fun and social activity. Like walk through a park or mall with your friend, or find somebody who can attend a water aerobics class with you. Working out with friends brings more fun to getting active and makes it possible for you to stick to your exercise routine.
Suggested Activities For Seniors
I recommend including some of the following exercises in your workout regime to help improve flexibility, balance and confidence. I usually recommend to my older clients some low-impact exercises like cycling along with light to moderate strength training. Following are some examples:
Walking: Walking is ideal for elderly folks who are just beginning to exercise regularly. You only require a pair of comfortable walking shoes. Check for the programs available in your area such as a group to walk with (options are many like senior recreation centers, community organizations, or local parks).
Yoga: Yoga helps improve balance & flexibility. It’s good for even a beginner. Opt for a yoga routine that is tailored to the level that fits you best.
Cycling: A great low-impact exercise for conditioning & strengthening.
Water Aerobics: Low impact, Easy on joints & Safe, if you have access to a pool.
Senior Sports or Fitness Classes: Exercising in a group or with friends can help reduce boredom & keep you motivated. Consider activities such as outdoor group hikes or pickle ball to reconnect with friends you’ve missed.
Tai Chi and Qi Gong: Both martial arts-based styles of movement recruiting your body & mind, leading to improved balance and increased strength. Classes for older folks are often available at community centers. These exercises are particularly helpful at reducing your risk of falling.
[Read on: Low Impact Exercise For Seniors]
Mental Benefits of Exercise
People tend to focus more on the physical importance of exercise. Most of us are not aware of the mental health benefits that regular physical activities provide for elderly. One of the effective ways that helps us combat Alzheimer’s disease and dementia is by engaging our bodies and brains at the same time.
As we age, we often experience poor sleep patterns and have more difficulty in getting adequate sound sleep. Exercise can help us fall asleep faster and sleep more deeply, which helps us feel more rejuvenated when we wake up.
Exercise produces endorphin that helps improve your mood. Being active upbeats your self-confidence and helps reduce feelings of depression, sadness and anxiety.
Improved Brain Function
Being physically active helps maintaining our mind sharp as we age. Exercise involves multitasking and focus, which help reduce risks of memory loss, dementia and cognitive decline.
Listen to Your Body
The best way to deal with injuries is to avert them in the first place. Stop exercising immediately and check with your doctor, if you feel short of breath or dizzy, develop chest pain or pressure or experience swelling.
About Author: Renu Bakshi, AKA Fitness Buffhq, is ISSA Certified Elite Trainer. He passed Personal Fitness Trainer Course, Nutrition Health Coach course & Specialist Exercise Therapy course from ISSA, USA obtaining + 97% marks. He shares his experience and knowledge about nutrition and effective workouts to get you in the best shape of your life, no matter how old you may be. The author says: “For me age is just a number!”