Top Exercises for Seniors to Increase Longevity And Vitality
So you think you can’t and shouldn’t exercise. You may think that walking from the living room all the way to your kitchen is enough of exercises for seniors and besides, it’s the only thing you’re capable of doing at your age. Exercise is for the active ones, not for you. But since exercise will increase longevity, you should give it a try.
And then you see those other seniors briskly walking or playing golf or bending and lifting those grocery bags like back pains and knee injuries were never part of their vocabulary. They do it so effortlessly and you’d wonder how do they even do that?
Aren’t you feeling even just a little bit of jealousy? How you wish you can stay active so you’d feel stronger and be able to do more things without worrying about your aching back or about losing balance and falling.
The ultimate solution?
Now? But how?
“I’m too old for that. I can’t move well. I have difficulty standing up. I easily lose balance and trip over. I might only get injuries from doing those things I’m not used to doing.”
Well, you could come up with a thousand and one reasons for not exercising. But if you really want to feel better, look younger, be able to move better and increase longevity, then you have to at least try. It’s always never too late to start.
Let’s do this step by step so things won’t be too overwhelming for you.
Exercise to Increase Longevity
Exercise leads to a better quality of life and increased lifespan among seniors.
In general, older adults have less strength, less range of motion, and poorer balance compared to younger people. Older adults are more prone to health conditions such as osteoarthritis and low back pains. Through exercise, these risks may be prevented or at least alleviated resulting in a better quality of life. Another great reason to exercise is to increase longevity.
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association conducted by the University of South Carolina suggests that adults over 60 years old who have better cardiorespiratory fitness appear to live longer than adults who are unfit, regardless of body fat levels.
Furthermore, the researchers concluded that “Clinicians should consider the importance of preserving functional capacity by recommending regular physical activity for older individuals, normal-weight and overweight alike.”
Safety first, please
Before you even get those workout shoes moving, be sure to check with your doctor first and get the go-ahead on the exercise you will be doing.
By performing exercises correctly, you can become fit and are less likely to get injured. But exercises performed incorrectly could lead to serious physical injuries. The last thing you want is to get a ruptured disc in your back because either you or your trainer pushed you too hard.
That said, know that not all gym classes are suitable for you considering your age, level of activity, and condition. However, more and more fitness centers are now actually offering classes designed for seniors such as the SilverSneakers program.
Remember that when doing any of these exercises, it is very crucial for you to listen to your body. If at any point during the exercise you feel any pain, discomfort, or light-headedness, stop. This is not a marathon. Take your time to rest. Maybe you’re lifting too much weight or exerting too much pressure for your frame. Slow down and listen to your body. If there is persistent pain, do not ignore it and definitely go see a doctor.
The Four Types of Exercises for Seniors
Endurance, Strength, Flexibility, and Balance – These are your keys to a more active and free lifestyle. There are many types of exercises that are well suited for seniors. Some seniors are able to handle any or all types of exercising. It is a testament to your perseverance if you are one of the few. But even if you find it difficult, get out there and exercise to increase longevity. Now is the time to begin.
1. Endurance Exercises
Also referred to as cardio or aerobic exercises, these activities are characterized by an increase in heart rate and breathing for an extended period of time. This type of exercise helps build your endurance so you are able to perform daily activities with ease. It means being able to walk for a much longer distance, climb up and down the stairs, or do whatever activity you want to without panting or having to stop to catch your breath. It also strengthens your heart muscles as well as your lungs. Basically, it improves your overall fitness.
EXAMPLES OF CARDIO EXERCISES:
Jogging or brisk walking
Dancing (line dancing or Zumba)
Gardening (raking, digging, etc.)
Tips to remember:
☑— Start gradually by doing at least 5 minutes of aerobic exercise per day for 1-2 weeks.
☑— Gradually increase your exercise time in the succeeding weeks until you can maintain the exercise for half an hour each day.
☑— You don’t have to do the same exercise over and over again. Vary your exercises to make it more fun. Several gyms throughout the country offer SilverSneakers classes where they offer endurance exercises such as classic aerobic classes, cardio circuit, line dancing, and Zumba.
☑— Do jogging or brisk walking at the park. Hit two birds with one stone by doing some cardio exercises outdoors while staying in touch with nature.
2. Strength Exercises
Strength exercises are activities that help build muscle strength. Do you still need that? All the more. Of course, you’re not going bulk up like a bodybuilder but you need to continue building your muscle mass.
Studies conducted by different institutions including the University of Maryland, Tufts University, and the University of Florida have demonstrated that strength training exhibited the following benefits:
improved glucose metabolism
increased bone mineral density
faster gastrointestinal transit
increased resting metabolism
reduced arthritic discomfort
increased lower back strength
reduced lower back pain
In other words, older adults who have subjected themselves to strength training exercises have been shown to maintain a normal weight, lower their blood pressure, regulate blood sugar levels, and have more strength to carry out daily activities. Strength exercises are also shown to help correct body posture. It has been shown to help seniors who suffer from poor posterior scapular strength where their shoulders appear to roll forward.
EXAMPLES OF STRENGTH TRAINING EXERCISES:
Weight training or lifting weights
Resistive band exercises
Using your body weight for push-ups (against the wall) or lunges
Tips to remember:
☑— Do strength training exercises at least 30 minutes 3-4 times per week to see optimum results.
☑— Focus on leg exercises such as lunges and modified squats to help increase leg strength thus preventing falls.
☑— Start light. Start with using your bodyweight for resistance or with light weights. You may increase the weights over a period of time but do it gradually.
☑— Be sure to also do warm-up exercises before doing strength training and cool down exercises after to prevent injury.
Ultimately, be sure to only perform these exercises with the assistance of your trainer to ensure proper execution and to ensure safety, as a priority.
3. Flexibility Exercises
Also called stretching exercises, flexibility exercises allow you to stretch your muscles to give your body more flexibility.
Seniors can benefit a lot from this type of exercise since we lose our muscle elasticity as we age. Therefore, doing this exercise greatly improves your range of movement; hence, it gives you more freedom to move and to more easily carry out your daily activities so you stay active and become more independent.
EXAMPLES OF FLEXIBILITY EXERCISES:
Shoulder and upper arm raise
Upper body stretch
Tips to remember:
☑— Do stretching exercises 3-4 times per week, doing each stretch 3-5 times, and holding each stretch for 10-30 seconds.
☑— Stretch the farthest you can without feeling any pain or discomfort.
☑— It is very important to breathe and relax while holding your stretches.
☑— Warm up before doing any stretching exercise by walking slowly for a couple minutes.
4. Balance Exercises
This is another type of exercise many seniors can benefit from considering that they easily lose their balance, thus increasing their susceptibility to falls.
According to NIH Senior Health, over 1.6 million older U.S. adults are brought to emergency departments each year due to fall-related injuries; and further stating that falls among older adults are the #1 cause of:
Hospital admissions for trauma
Loss of independence
Through exercise, you are able to improve your balance as well as strengthen your muscles to keep you from falling.
EXAMPLES OF BALANCE EXERCISES:
Standing on one leg
Standing on tiptoes and holding for a few seconds
Leg swings (one leg swinging at a time) Balancing routines using tools like balance discs or BOSU® Ball
Tips to remember:
☑— Stand against a wall or use a chair when doing these exercises so you can easily lean on or grab on to it respectively, whenever necessary.
☑— Practice balancing exercises 2-3 minutes per day.
☑— Make it more fun and a playful experience by trying to balance with one leg while you’re queuing at a grocery store (be sure you’ve got something to hold onto).
So you see, there are so many exercises that you can do to improve your overall fitness and increase longevity. It just takes an ounce of determination, a pint of hard work and a tablespoon of positivity, and soon you will enjoy a body that is much stronger, healthier and more active.
Read more at the Guide For Seniors for tips for seniors.