Fitness for Seniors
Staying fit is the key to healthy aging for seniors. Remaining active will help reduce the impact of illness and enhance mobility, flexibility and balance. Exercise also helps to improve sleep, boosts energy, promotes a sense of well-being and improves memory. All these benefits allow older people to keep their independence longer.
Regardless of age, health, or level of fitness, anyone can benefit from becoming more active. Exercise can help with pain management and relief from the symptoms of illness, often reversing some of the symptoms of aging. Another benefit to staying active is that improved health results in fewer health care costs, including doctors’ bills and health insurance premiums.
Before beginning an exercise routine, consider these precautions:
Consulting with a Doctor:
Get medical clearance from a doctor who should be able to suggest appropriate exercises, start slowly and build up endurance a little each day. Recognize that exercise should be pleasant, not painful. If you experience pain or dizziness, stop exercising until your condition can be evaluated.
Building a balanced exercise plan:
According to the National Institute on Aging, mixing different types of exercise helps reduce monotony and improves overall health. Seniors should do four types of exercises for optimum fitness:
- Cardio – Endurance exercise improves the health of the heart and circulatory system to lessen fatigue and shortness of breath. It improves endurance for daily activities such as walking, house cleaning, gardening and running errands. This type of exercise includes walking, stair climbing, swimming, hiking, cycling, rowing, tennis and dancing.
- Strength Training – Strength training helps elderly people prevent loss of bone mass, builds muscle and improves balance—all important in staying active and preventing the risk of falling. Building up strength will make day-to-day activities easier, such as opening a jar, getting in and out of a car and lifting objects (such as grandchildren!).
- Stretching – It helps the body stay flexible and increases range of movement for ordinary physical activities such as looking behind you while driving, tying shoes, shampooing your hair and playing with grandchildren.
- Balance – Balance exercises improve balance, posture, and quality of walking. They also reduce the risk of falling. Yoga, Tai Chi, and posture exercises will help you to gain confidence with balance.
Many fitness centers offer exercise classes for seniors, such as arthritis aquatics, aqua cardio and yoga. Also, you can find practical ways to get more exercise. When you are out running errands, choose stairs over the elevator, park at the far end of the parking lot, walk down every isle of the grocery store while shopping, and do abdominal contractions while waiting at a stoplight. At home do some balancing exercises or wall push-ups while waiting for the eggs to a boil, lift weights while watching television and do some stretches after sitting for a long period of time. Of course, don’t forget that housework and working in the garden also involve moving around.
The most rewarding part of beginning a fitness routine is noticing the difference it makes in your life. Start slowly, and gradually you will notice a big improvement in the way you feel.