Getting regular exercise is one of the essential parts of healthy living for the young and old. However, as we age, many changes occur in our bodies including bone strength, muscle density, and flexibility. While most seniors may think that they are no longer capable of engaging in physical activities, experts state that exercise helps improve overall health among older adults.
Older adults tend to live a sedentary life as they reach their 50s or 60s, that’s one of the reasons why they easily get chronic diseases and other age-related health issues. To address this, doctors recommend promoting a more active lifestyle especially when we reach our golden years. In this article, I will be sharing the benefits of exercise to senior citizens, the ideal physical activities for seniors, and other things to keep in mind.
Benefits of Exercises to Senior Citizens
Exercise offers a ton of benefits not just among young people, but also among older adults. Benefits to seniors include:
Exercise keeps your muscles and bones active. This will make you more capable of doing basic tasks like walking, cooking, cleaning, and taking a bath on your own. The more capable you are, the more independent you will become and you no longer need to depend on your caregiver all the time.
People become more susceptible to falls as they age. Falls are one of the most common emergency cases among seniors. Fortunately, exercise and other physical activities improve balance, coordination, and flexibility. Engaging in regular exercises like walking or jogging will reduce your risk of falls and fractures.
Contribute to preventing diseases
One of the reasons why older adults get chronic diseases is due to a sedentary lifestyle. Promoting a more active lifestyle is proven to reduce the risks of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and osteoporosis, and may stop the progress of the disease if you already have one.
This statement is supported by NCBI (National Center of Biotechnology Information) wherein they stated that physical activities are considered a protective factor against stroke, diabetes, and several types of cancer.
Promotes proper brain function
Many studies have proven that physical activities such as walking, running, or bicycling significantly impact the brain’s cognitive function. In fact, recent research concluded that engaging in regular exercise helped delay the onset of dementia.
Improves mental health
Scientists discovered that exercise is linked to a healthy mentality. This is because of the hormone known as “endorphins” which is responsible for relieving pain and stress. Exercise is one of the activities that allow the brain to secrete this kind of hormone. Thus, the more you exercise, the more endorphins are released, contributing to improved mental health.
Promotes more energy
Another benefit of exercise is that it promotes more energy. Since endorphins are released during exercise, this will leave you feeling refreshed and energized. Regulating this habit will even you a better sense of well-being compared to living a sedentary lifestyle.
Improve social engagement
Not just in mental, cognitive, and physical health, exercise may also improve your social life. Most seniors tend to feel depressed and lonely because of the loss of their sense of purpose. This is where exercise becomes meaningful. From meeting new people during your daily walks to joining wellness clubs, these will help ease the feeling of loneliness as you will meet lots of people you can relate to.
Best Exercises for Senior Citizens
There are many kinds of exercises out there, but the best exercise choices for senior citizens are the following:
- Walking - This is one of the most basic and least stressful exercises for seniors. The best way to do walking as exercise is to set a number of step goals daily. Generally, achieving 10,000 steps a day is the ideal goal for a healthy lifestyle, however, people with arthritis, osteoporosis, and joint pain, can set a lower step goal.
- Jogging - This is another healthy exercise for people of all ages. Not only will it improve your muscle and bone strength, but it will also significantly improve your cardiovascular health. This will then reduce your risk of heart disease and joint problems. Jogging for at least 30 minutes to 1 hour a day will have a significant effect on your overall well-being.
- Gardening - It may not sound like a type of exercise, but doing some gardening is proven to help strengthen muscle strength without giving too much stress and pressure on it. Not only that, but gardening can also give you a sense of fulfilment and productivity as you watch your little plants grow bigger every day.
- Resistance band workouts - Exercising with resistance bands is beneficial for seniors and is now becoming a trend among older adults. The primary purpose of using resistance bands is to reduce the pressure and stress on your body during exercise. Examples of exercises where you can use resistance bands are leg press, lateral raise, bicep curl, and triceps press. Learn more about resistance band workouts.
- Body-weight workouts - Bodyweight workouts are the best option for older adults dealing with or at risk of muscle loss. Another thing that makes this a good option is because it’s cost-effective as you can simply do it at home with comfy clothes and a mat. Examples of body-weight workouts are squats to a chair, bird dog, step up, and lying hip bridges. Learn more about these exercises here.
- Strength training workouts - Strength training workouts are beneficial for people with osteoporosis and diabetes. It will also help you maintain a healthy weight, good metabolism, and proper sugar levels as well. Some strength training can be done with dumbbells, but some require no equipment like squats onto a chair, wall push-ups, and side-lying circles. Know more about strength training workouts.
Balance And Flexibility
- Taichi - If you want to improve your balance and flexibility, Taichi is one of the most ancient but most effective exercises. This came from the Chinese tradition and it involves martial arts-like movements and deep breaths. Aside from improving balance, taichi is also believed to reduce the risk and effects of COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease).
- Chair yoga - This is another type of exercise to improve balance and flexibility reducing the risk of falls among seniors. Not only that, but chair yoga exercises also benefit your muscles and your mental health. Examples of chair yoga exercises are overhead stretch, seated cow stretch, and seated mountain pose. You can learn more about chair yoga poses.
- Stretching exercises - These kinds of exercises are good for improving flexibility and muscle health. What makes these good for seniors is that it is not too heavy and pressure-giving for their age. Examples of stretching exercises are hamstring stretch, standing quadriceps stretch, and seated knee to chest. There are other stretching exercises you can learn.
Things to Keep in Mind
- Older adults should have at least 2 ½ hours of exercise every week or 30 minutes daily.
- Strength training workouts are ideally performed at least 2 days per week.
- More vigorous training like jogging and running should be performed for 1 hour and 15 minutes per week.
- Always include warm-up exercises before doing the actual workout routine.
- Include cool-down exercises after your workout routine as well.
- Always have potable water with you.
- Talk to your doctor if you experience any of the following while exercising:
- Chest pain
- Swelling of the joints
- Blood clots
Exercise gives a ton of benefits to your health and well-being. That’s why instead of living out a sedentary lifestyle and waiting for chronic diseases to overcome your body, why not get up and give yourself something to enjoy?
There are many types of exercises out there, which might make it a little confusing what to include in your routine. But I hope this article helped you learn about the best exercises for seniors as well as some things to keep in mind before, during, and after performing your exercise.