There have been quite numerous benefits of regular exercise that have been documented by scientists and fitness experts through time. These benefits are wide-ranging – from achieving healthier body weight to building up and strengthening muscles to achieving improved balance and flexibility – and can apply to different age groups. Through recent studies, however, we can conclude that seniors have more to gain from regular exercise than most younger adults. Why is this?
As we age, our bodies weaken. Our muscle mass begins to decrease up to 3-5% for every decade of our lives starting from the age of 40. We also become more susceptible to illnesses and health conditions. Lastly, our cognitive functions also tend to slow down. It is in this sense that seniors specifically benefit from a regular workout routine. Exercise strengthens one’s balance and flexibility, therefore reducing risks of mobility-related injury. Exercise also stimulates one’s immune system and helps prevent chronic diseases. Last but not the least, exercise improves one’s overall mood and mental well-being. Overall, exercise helps seniors achieve a better quality of life even as they age.
Managing Abilities and Expectations
That said, one key point to understand before starting an exercise routine is that seniors have different needs and abilities compared to younger people. Realistically speaking, most seniors would likely have pre-existing conditions and health history that may render certain routines challenging, ineffective or outright dangerous. Some elderlies may also have been experiencing lack of mobility, poor eyesight, and muscle weakness before their desire to exercise.
The first step, therefore, in establishing an effective and safe workout routine for elders is to have an accurate scope of their abilities and to manage their expectations accordingly. Home health & hospice care experts recommend choosing an exercise program that is within the elders’ physical abilities. Eliminate any exercise routine that will aggravate an existing medical problem. For instance, running and other high-impact activities may not be advisable for elderlies with hip conditions or have had hip replacement procedures. Said exercises are totally out of the question for seniors with limited mobility as well. There are, however, different alternatives to these activities that you can explore.
Your Best Bets
Here are some examples of activities that can be incorporated in elderlies’ exercise routine. Again, keep in mind the scope of their abilities and make sure to manage their expectations accordingly.
Walking is a low-impact exercise that is great for seniors who are just about to begin a regular workout habit. It is easily accessible and does not need special equipment to be conducted. In fact, all you need for this activity is a pair of sensible shoes. To top it all, walking also boosts the mood, especially if done in locations with fresh air and majestic views. It can also be an activity for socialization as it can be accomplished by pairs or even in groups.
For water-loving seniors, swimming is a perfect low-impact exercise that presents minimal risks of injury. Swimming increases our body’s oxygen intake and allows for a complete workout of the body’s entire muscle group. Swimming is great for elderlies suffering from arthritis as it is gentle on the joints. Not only that but it also increases flexibility in the hips, arms, neck, and legs, providing for improved mobility and better comfort for seniors. It is also an incredibly fun way to reduce stress and keep negative thoughts (and feelings) at bay.
Granted, cycling is a more rigorous activity than those listed above. Beyond that, it also requires equipment (a bike, helmet, and other safety gear) when starting. The best thing about cycling, however, is that it is never a boring chore. Seniors can ride their bikes within their communities or even go out and explore nearby trails and parks. Elderlies can also choose to opt short, casual ride or go for a more demanding route. Most importantly, cycling is a great way to exercise the cardiovascular muscles and, at the same time, helps seniors maintain their optimum weight.
Another great cardiovascular exercise for seniors is Water Aerobics. Like swimming, water aerobics is a low-impact activity that minimizes the risk of incurring injuries. What makes this activity different from normal aerobics is how the water creates ideal amount of resistance for folks with limited mobility. When surrounded by water, this also helps strengthen balance and minimizes any falling risks.
Again, depending on their abilities and limitations, there are other fun activities that seniors can do as an alternative to a straight-up exercise routine. Some great alternative to aerobics, for instance, are Tai Chi and Yoga. Aside from improving flexibility, these activities also incorporate relaxation and meditation that can be good for one’s mental health.
If you are looking for something more dynamic, why not try mixing in a jolt of lively music to the exercise routine? Zumba is a fun new activity that combines dancing and aerobics for maximum benefit. Another great – and quite popular – alternative is to sign up for dancing lessons. Through experienced instructors, seniors can either learn new moves or relive their glory days in the dance floor.
Lastly, elderlies who love outdoor sports can also engage in low-impact and non-rigorous activities such as golf or badminton.
It is easy to think that old age qualifies one to stop being on the move and stop caring for one’s self. However, none can be further from the truth. In fact, it all the more serves as encouragement to stay in tip-top shape. Through a combination of proper diet and useful exercise, senior citizens can keep themselves healthy and in control of their lives.