Seniors have a lot to gain by regular exercise. Staying active can improve your physical and mental health and extend your ability to live independently. Below are some tips for developing a beneficial exercise program and sticking to it.
Designing a Safe and Balanced Exercise Program
1. Increase your endurance. Aerobic exercise like walking or biking is great for your heart and circulation. Swimming is especially good for seniors because you get a total body workout with low impact and little risk of injuries. Aim for about 30 minutes of moderate activity daily.
2. Build your strength. Your muscle mass declines with age, but resistance training two to three times weekly can help offset that loss. To be safe, start off with easy exercises and progress by increasing weights and repetitions gradually. You may want to visit a local gym or take a class at a senior center.
• If you prefer working out at home, you can buy weights or use household items like bags of rice.
3. Stay flexible. Stretching will keep you limber and help protect you from injury. Do it as often as possible – daily is great! Warm up with some light aerobics and then ease into a stretch gently. Hold your stretch for about 30 seconds. Repeat each movement a few times, gradually extending your range.
• It’s good to feel some slight tension, but if you experience any pain, stop and withdraw back to a more comfortable position.
4. Improve your balance. Protect yourself from falls and broken bones by working on your balance. Tai Chi is another low impact activity ideal for seniors. It promotes balance and strength. Even just practicing standing on one foot can enhance your stability.
Sticking to Your Exercise Program
1. Set realistic goals. A regular workout routine is safer and more beneficial than scattered efforts. Keep yourself motivated by establishing realistic goals. Find activities that you can easily incorporate into your daily schedule such as cutting back on TV viewing to go for a daily swim. When your favorite program is on, you can even exercise during commercials.
2. Have fun. Think about the pastimes you love and expand upon them. When your grandkids visit, go for a long walk through the park. If you get tired of using the treadmill alone every day, sign up for a yoga class with a buddy whose company you enjoy.
3. Make contingency plans. Life events will sometimes interrupt your normal schedule. While traveling, look for hotels with fitness centers. If it’s too cold to ride your bike outdoors, browse the public library for exercise videos for seniors.
Other Safety Tips
1. Talk with your doctor. If you’ve been sedentary for a while, your doctor can advise you on how to get moving safely. No matter what health issues you may experience, there is usually some form of exercise that you can engage in even if you need to modify the standard positions.
2. Learn to breathe. Proper breathing will help you maintain good form. Generally, you exhale when you exert effort and inhale when you relax. So breathe out when you lift a dumbbell and breathe in when you lower it.
3. Drink plenty of water. Your body needs water regardless of whether you’re sweating. By the time you’re thirsty, you’ve gone too long without drinking.
4. Wear the right shoes. You can exercise without spending a fortune on expensive equipment, but good shoes are worth the cost. Get protective footwear that’s designed for your chosen sport, whether it’s golf or tennis. If tying laces is a struggle, Velcro closures will give you a secure fit.
Exercise is a great way for older adults to stay healthy and fit. Follow simple safety precautions so you can remain active and enjoy the pastimes you love.