Being elderly certainly doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t stay active. In fact, it’s incredibly important to ensure you’re not too sedentary in order to retain healthy bone density and keep yourself feeling great! It is recommended to follow an exercise routine designed for seniors, or older adults.
Working out and maintaining a healthy lifestyle as a senior is important as it can help with symptoms of / prevent the onset of osteoporosis through protecting against bone loss and ensuring high bone density, arthritis, balance, pulmonary disease, obesity, diabetes type II, and general back problems. Keeping active also boosts immune function, allowing the body to more effectively fight off infections, improves respiratory and cardiovascular function through reducing blood pressure and lowering the risk of heart disease, as well as boosting the metabolism which improves gastrointestinal function.
In general, it is recommended to get moving a little every day, and to incorporate around 100-150 minutes of moderate exercise weekly. Feel free to workout however you prefer – walking, swimming, cycling or just at-home exercises are all great options. This may sound like a large amount of time, but it is easily split into more manageable little time chunks. A great way to get moving everyday would be to walk for 15 minutes twice a day, and then perform strength, flexibility and balance exercises from home at your leisure.
Strength (such as light resistance exercises), flexibility (such as yoga and posture exercises) and mobility (such as stretching) are the three main types of exercise which should be incorporated into your regular exercise regime.
Some great exercises that you can perform from home are abdominal contractions, in which you tighten your abdominal muscles, pelvic tilts, toe taps, which require you to sit in a chair and lift your toes up so that you can feel your shin muscles firing up. This ensures the circulation of blood continues in your legs. Heel raises are also a great exercise. All these exercises should be performed around 20 times each.
Stretching the shoulders and back is really important in order to ensure mobility. Neck stretches, such as standing straight and tilting your head forward, backwards, right and left, are fantastic for maintaining mobility. Another great stretch is to sit in a chair and hold your arms straight out in front of you, relaxing your shoulders. All these stretches should be held until you feel them, for around 20-30 seconds.
Balance is very important too. Lots of injuries that the elderly endure are due to lack of balance, such as accidental falls so incorporating daily balance exercises are key. Yoga is a great option for both balance and strength. Additionally, a simple exercise you can perform is shifting your weight from foot to foot: you should stand straight with your feet hip-width apart and shift your weight from your left to the right side for 10 seconds on each side. A more advanced move is a single leg balance, in which you lift the other leg off the ground.
For the elderly, resistance exercises are incredibly important as they will ensure your muscles retain as much strength as possible, maintaining bone mass and preventing muscle loss. As a result, these exercises will make performing everyday tasks such as climbing stairs, walking and maneuvering in and out of chairs, far easier, as well as reducing the risk of falling and injury. For increased resistance, it could be worth purchasing resistance bands, light ankle weights, as well as light dumbbells for arm exercises.
Squatting exercises are fantastic for increasing hip flexibility and to strengthen the leg muscles. If able, it is great to practice half squats against a wall. Bicep curls help to maintain and increase arm strength – 10 to 12 reps is a great range in which to perform this exercise. To hit the triceps, sitting on a chair and holding a weight and extending the dumbbell above your head is a great exercise, but ensure this does not hurt your elbows.
As with any exercise regime, take care and consult a physician or doctor beforehand to prevent injury. In addition, it is important to remember that a healthy diet is necessary along with the exercise regime, which is particularly key as you age, in order to maintain muscle mass.
As always, it is vital to keep safety in mind. Ensure you:
- Warm up before you exercise, and cool down afterwards
- Stop any exercise immediately if discomfort or pain is felt – a stretching sensation is normal for certain exercises, however pain signifies that the movement is not right for you. The signs to look out for could be chest pains, shortness of breath, cold sweats or joint pain
- Focus on the breathing throughout the exercises and ensure you are breathing in and out
- Perform all exercises slowly, not hastily and without intention
- Find the right intensity and resistance for you – it is important to find a balance between a weight which is a challenge for you, while preventing injury
- Ensure you talk to your doctor about starting an exercise routine, in order to guarantee you are not in risk of injuring yourself. This is particularly important if you have any medical conditions or existing injuries.