Physical fitness is important for people at any age.
For older adults, exercise is especially important to maintain muscle mass, protect against osteoporosis, and support brain health.
Unfortunately, most seniors do not get nearly as much physical activity as they should.
The good news is, senior fitness can be incorporated into a healthy lifestyle through various low impact exercises and fun activities.
Senior Fitness Tips to Keep in Mind
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, adults should complete two different types of activity each week: aerobic activity and muscle-strengthening activity.
Adults require at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity and muscle strengthening activity that works all major muscle groups at least two days each week. High intensity exercise and increased frequency can improve your health even further.
Many people might not realize that older adults can benefit greatly from more increased physical activity.
Seniors looking to improve their health should shoot for 300 minutes each week of moderate intensity aerobic activity and more than two days each week of muscle strengthening activity.
What Counts as Exercise?
Although housekeeping and grocery shopping can become tiresome, most daily activities do not count towards your daily exercise requirement.
It’s important to get your heart rate up and your breath moving.
- During moderate intensity activity you should break a sweat.
- With vigorous intensity activity, you should not be able to pass the “talk test.” This means you can’t give more than one-word responses while completing the exercise because you’re breathing heavily.
The good news is, you can spread out your exercise requirements throughout the week in 30-minute or even 10-minute intervals.
Benefits of Exercise for Seniors
Exercise is important for maintaining both physical health and overall wellbeing. In fact, mental health benefits might just be as important as physical when it comes to seniors.
Some of the many benefits of exercise for seniors include:
- Strengthening muscles to ward off osteoporosis.
- Improving cardiovascular health by reducing cholesterol and blood pressure.
- Improving sleep quality
- Reducing anxiety and depression by supporting healthy blood flow to the brain.
- Supporting brain health and cognitive function.
- Reducing the risk of falling.
- Maintaining the ability to live independently.
Nutrition is Important, Too
In addition to senior fitness, nutrition plays an important role maintaining muscle strength and overall health.
As people age, their muscle mass and ability to absorb nutrients decreases. Although older adults burn significantly less calories than others, this doesn’t equal good health. In fact, it can be more difficult to consume enough nutrients on lower calorie diets.
Seniors should take the following into consideration when developing a diet plan:
- Lean proteins from beans, chicken, and fish are important for maintaining muscle mass.
- Stay away from frozen foods and canned goods with high sodium levels.
- Increase dark leafy greens for iron, calcium, and fiber.
- Fortified cereals are important for maintaining proper levels of brain-healthy B vitamins.
16 Exercises for Seniors
According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), over two-thirds of seniors do not meet the CDC’s recommended guidelines for physical activity.
Fortunately, there are several options for getting 30 minutes of moderate intensity and low-impact exercise five days each week.
Balance Exercises for Seniors
Balance exercises for seniors are important for reducing your risk of falls and fractures.
- Marching in place: pull up one leg as high as you can, hold it for a few seconds, and release.
- Heel-to-toe walking
- Low-intensity yoga poses that involve standing on one foot or leaning.
- Tai chi
Flexibility exercises can help seniors stay independent and active throughout the day. Don’t bounce or jerk as you stretch. Improving your flexibility takes time.
- Yoga poses that involve slow and deep stretching.
- Shoulder and back stretch: clasp your hands behind your back. If you don’t feel a stretch yet, pull your clasped hands away from your back.
- Seated hip stretch: sit upright on an armless chair. Place your right foot over the thigh of your left leg. If you don’t feel a stretch yet, press your right knee downwards. Hold this position for 30 seconds and repeat with the opposite leg.
- Lower back stretch: lay flat on your back on a yoga or exercise mat. Bring one knee up into your chest and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat with the opposite leg.
Muscle Strengthening Exercises
Muscle mass starts to decrease at a fairly young age. For seniors, muscle strengthening exercises are even more important for maintaining strength and bone health.
- Bicep curls
- Standing leg curls. Place your hands on a surface in front of you for balance if necessary.
- Wide-leg squats
- Overhead presses
Aerobic Exercises for Seniors
Cardiovascular exercise is important for maintaining proper heart health and blood pressure.
- Jogging or brisk walking
Meeting Elderly Fitness Goals
If you’re not meeting your suggested elderly fitness goals, that’s okay because you have plenty of options for incorporating exercise into your daily routine.
You could spend 20 minutes each night doing moderate weight-bearing exercises as you watch TV. You could also join group fitness classes to interact with others and try new activities such as water aerobics, yoga, tai chi, cycling, or dancing.
(Article courtesy of Fairmont Grand Senior Living.)
Kelly’s Retirement Homes are an Assisted Living Facility that honors and respects our residents and treats them with dignity. We provide the highest possible quality of compassionate care while ensuring each resident’s right to privacy and choice in their daily lives.
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