Getting proper exercise is a crucial part of having a healthy, active lifestyle during your senior years. But that doesn’t mean you get to exercise as much as you used to in your prime. Generally, seniors tend to exercise less than younger adults. But what happens if they exercise a lot?
Seniors can exercise too much. Too much exercise can cause physical injury or fatal medical conditions. It’s also crucial to ask your doctor and limit the types of exercises you participate in accordingly. Seniors may need to use less vigorous aerobics and more low-impact activities like swimming or yoga.
By the time you’re done with this article, you’ll know everything you need to know about seniors’ proper exercise regimens. Now, let’s get ready to exercise.
How Much Exercise Do Seniors Need?
To maintain good health, seniors should have a well-defined weekly exercise routine that includes aerobics, strength training, and proper exercises to improve balance and flexibility. It is recommended that seniors get a total of 150 minutes a week of mixed exercise.
Exercising helps keep you within a healthy weight range and reduces the chances of injury. Getting exercise can also help you perform daily activities without struggling, such as walking upstairs, lifting objects, and walking without losing your breath.
Engaging in proper exercise can also boost your energy levels and mood, increase mobility, reduce pain from conditions like arthritis, and is excellent for stress relief. You can even get a boost of self-confidence so you’ll feel better about yourself.
Before engaging in any type of exercise, it’s essential to consult a doctor or trainer. Consulting an expert means that you won’t end up doing the wrong exercises and causing injury or damage.
If you’re in proper health, your doctor might recommend limited daily exercises. Typically, these are short sessions, less than thirty minutes in duration. Depending on your individual needs, you might need to break your activities down into mini-sessions of five minutes each.
What to Know About Senior Exercises
Seniors should not engage in vigorous exercises, as there is such a thing as too much exercise. Overexertion can cause multiple problems that lead to severe exhaustion and injury. Some injuries may be minor enough to heal quickly. But others could require a long recuperation time.
Exercising too much as a senior can cause higher risks of damage to the heart, including coronary artery calcification, artery damage, and rhythm disorders.
Before exercising, you should always do warmups and stretching, so your muscles are adequately prepared. This is especially true before doing hard exercises such as aerobics. You should also be sure to stretch to cool down after laborious exercise.
It’s also important to stay hydrated while exercising. Water is the best beverage, but you can also use drinks to increase your electrolytes, such as Gatorade. Stay away from sugary beverages as these won’t provide enough hydration.
And when exercising, always pay attention to your body for warning signs of overdoing it. Signs that you need to stop exercising include:
- Chest tightness
- Pain, throbbing or burning in the chest
To ensure safe exercising, always be sure you’re wearing comfortable, supportive shoes. You could even consider using orthopedic soles to put inside your shoes for arch support and extra comfort.
Benefits of Exercising for Seniors
There are plenty of health benefits that you get from exercising. But you can also use exercise as a way to socialize with other seniors. Working out with friends, family, or even strangers is a great way to get motivated.
Your workout partner will encourage you when you’re slacking, and they can keep a watchful eye to ensure you don’t end up overdoing it. If you’re not in the best physical shape or you have a health condition, you might prefer the security of having someone with you in case you need help.
Exercising with a partner also gives you the chance to socialize. If you’re a homebody that doesn’t get much social interaction, you might enjoy the opportunity to spend time with someone instead of alone.
Getting enough exercise not only helps keep you healthy and socially active, but it can also help keep your weight under control and help you live longer. Exercising can also reduce stress and boost your mood.
Improves Mental Health
Exercise is a great way to improve your mental health. If you suffer from depression or anxiety, you can get a mood boost from exercising. Physical activity releases endorphins in the brain, which are hormones that affect your mood.
People who do enough activity to flood their brains with endorphins often have happier outlooks, less stress, and anxiety, and they experience reduced depression. Let’s face it.
Who doesn’t feel better after beating the crud out of something? Now you can do it without the dirty looks. Just tell the busybodies you’re working on getting healthy. Take up kickboxing or Tai Chi. These types of exercise can be great for seniors.
Types of Exercises for Seniors
There are some types of exercises that are better for seniors. These require less strenuous movements and cause fewer injuries. In general, the National Institute of Health recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise weekly, including aerobics and strength conditioning.
The benefits of doing yoga include improved flexibility, so your joints don’t feel as stiff when you start moving around. You’ll also see improvement with your balance, which is essential as a senior when it becomes more challenging to stay steady on your feet.
Yoga also helps reduce stress, which is crucial for seniors, as the risk of heart attack is higher with age. It can also lessen the chances of suffering from depression.
And because you’re less stressed and more relaxed from the different positions, yoga can help improve your sleep patterns. You’ll fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.
Walking is a free and easy exercise that can be super beneficial to seniors. It’s one of the most recommended activities you could do. And there are plenty of benefits too.
Walking can help keep your heart in healthy working order. An elevated heart rate reduces the chances of heart disease and reduces high blood pressure and cholesterol.
Spending twenty minutes a day, three days a week walking, can also reduce pain from chronic conditions like arthritis or back pains.
Even your blood sugar can benefit from walking. A fifteen-minute walk shortly after eating can reduce your blood sugar and make your insulin produce better. If you have diabetes or are prone to sugar spikes after eating, walking might be an exercise you want to include in your daily or weekly routine.
The benefits of swimming include improved cardiovascular health, lowered blood pressure, and increased circulation. Swimming also reduces the chances of developing lung or heart disease.
If you suffer from joint pains, swimming is a great way to exercise, as water helps you become more buoyant. Moving around in the water won’t feel as difficult or painful as trying to exercise on dry land.
Swimming can also improve your bone mineral density (BMD), so there’s less chance of osteoporosis, a common condition for seniors over the age of 50, especially women.
And swimming also builds stronger muscles, as the water acts like resistance bands. You can lose weight and get lean, toned muscles by incorporating swimming into your weekly exercise routine.
And if you’re not a swimmer, you can often find aerobic water classes at your local fitness or senior center. Water aerobics are more accessible to perform than regular aerobics, so if you’re physically limited, it’s the perfect solution.
Pilates is another low-impact exercise that is great for strengthening muscles and improving stability. Many people prefer to participate in Pilates classes, where they receive hands-on instructions on their form and technique.
There are also specialized machines you can use for pilates, such as the reformer, which has springs, straps, and bars to provide muscle resistance.
But you can do pilates at home. It is recommended that you purchase a pilates mat to use for comfort, as trying to do pilates on a hard surface can be uncomfortable. And while you can do these exercises barefoot, you might get better results using comfortable, slip-resistant shoes.
And because you are doing a lot of physical activity that requires body strength, pilates wouldn’t be suitable for all seniors. This exercise is one you’ll want the approval of your doctor to do.
If being outdoors is your thing, consider taking up cycling. If you’re more of the indoors type, you can use a stationary bike. Or hit up your local gym or senior center and use their various exercise equipment, while getting hands-on training and support.
Adding cycling into your exercise routine is an excellent option for seniors who can’t handle high-impact exercises such as running or walking. It’s also great for those who have issues with their bones or joints but still want to build leg muscles.
Cycling is excellent for weight management, helps tone muscles, improves balance and stamina, and is great for your heart and brain.
The motions of riding a bike have been proven to improve heart function and strength. It can even boost your memory and reduce the possibilities of dementia, Alzheimer’s, and memory loss.
Experts recommend including strengthening exercises as part of your weekly routine to help keep your muscles stretched and strong. You’ll experience less injury when your muscles are adequately maintained.
Strength exercises mean that you are building muscles using some type of resistance or weight. It’s best to start resistance training after talking with your doctor or personal trainer to figure out what exercises would be best for your needs.
Here are a few different types of strength training that are most frequently recommended for seniors. Each of these is pretty simple to do and can be done with little to no equipment or experience.
The great thing about strength exercises is that most of them can be done at home, for little costs or equipment. Your abdominal area is one of the main focus areas to start with for strength training. Having a strong core is the backbone of having good balance, flexibility, strength, and posture.
A simple routine to do to strengthen your core follows as:
- Take a deep breath and tighten your stomach muscles.
- Hold your breath for three seconds.
- Breathe out.
- Repeat ten times.
To tone up your arms, shoulders, and upper back, you can do push-ups. But you don’t have to be on the ground just to do push-ups. All you need is a sturdy wall. It can be done anywhere. To do wall planks, you:
- Position yourself three feet from the wall, feet shoulder-width apart.
- Lean towards the wall and place your hands flat on the surface, directly in line with your shoulders.
- Keep your spine straight.
- To do the push-up, lean in towards the wall. Then use your arms to push yourself back into a straight, upright position.
- Repeat this technique ten times.
Pelvic tilts help stretch and strengthen the muscles in your lower back. If you suffer from back problems, you might benefit from pelvic tilts. To do these, you will position yourself in a kneel, with one knee, with the opposite foot flat on the ground (think of the standard proposal stance):
- Pull in a deep breath, clench your butt cheeks and tilt your hips up slightly.
- Hold for three seconds.
- Tilt your hips backward and hold for another three seconds.
- Repeat this movement eight to twelve times.
Here’s a video to help you do the pelvic tilt right:
Shoulder Blade Squeeze
If you want to release tension in your upper back, arms, and shoulders, you can use a simple shoulder blade squeeze technique. This includes:
- Sit up straight in your seat, hands resting in your lap.
- Now, squeeze your shoulder blades towards each other.
- Keep your shoulders down and hold for three seconds.
- Now, release the tension in your shoulders.
- Repeat this exercise eight to twelve times.
Here’s a video to help you perform this exercise correctly:
Side Leg Lifts
To improve your legs’ balance and strength, you can use a chair and a resistance band. Wrap the resistance band around your ankles and stand with your hips, knees, and ankles aligned. Toes should be pointed to the front.
Now, shift all your weight to one leg. Try to lift the other leg out to the side, with your foot flexed. Keep your torso upright as you lift your foot off the ground. Repeat the motion twelve times for each foot.
To strengthen your biceps, the muscles in your upper arms, you can use small weights. For senior women, choose a weight that’s between five and eight pounds. For men, you can go up to weights between eight and fifteen pounds.
You can use dumbbells or a kettlebell, which is a wide ball attached to a triangle-shaped handle. Stand with your palms out and curl the weight towards your shoulder, without moving your elbow.
As you lower the weight, keep your elbow slightly bent. Be sure not to swing your weights and to keep your elbows still as you curl. Do this twelve times for each arm.
Resistance bands are cheap and super easy to use. It’s a super long rubber band that will provide quite a workout for your muscles. The thicker the band is, the more resistance you will get when you pull.
Start with a thin band to get the hang of things, as these will stretch more without as much effort. But as it starts to get easier to pull and you’re not noticing as much resistance from your muscles, move up to a thicker band.
You can use resistance bands to stretch out your back, shoulders, arms, legs, and any muscle in between. There are plenty of instructional videos to assist you with resistance band exercises.
And you can do them just about anywhere. The bands take up zero space to store, and they’re light enough to carry everywhere you go. And whether you want to exercise by standing up or sitting down, resistance bands can work for you.
Once you’ve reached senior status – typically anyone over the age of 50 – you might need to change your exercise routine. It’s best not to start any type of exercise regimen without first consulting an expert. Your doctor can help you determine what type of exercises would meet your needs, reducing the chances of overexertion and injury.
You should attempt to get in up to 150 minutes of exercise per week, composed of strength conditioning, stretching, light aerobics, and activities to improve your balance and flexibility. You should try to get in at least thirty minutes of exercise a day, even if you have to break these down into short mini sessions.
- Cyclingtity: 10 Benefits of Cycling for Seniors
- Family Doctor: Exercise and Seniors
- Healthline: Exercise Plans for Seniors
- Silver Sneakers: 9 Best Types of Exercise for Older Adults
- Help Guide: Senior Exercises and Fitness Tips
- Silver Sneakers: Strength Training for Seniors
- Silver Sneakers: The Beginner’s Guide to Exercise
- Very Well Fit: Total Body Strength Workouts