The National Institutes of Health (NIH) emphasizes the importance of becoming and staying active as you age. According to the NIH, being inactive is directly related to the loss of independence as you age. Seniors who are not active may make more trips to the doctor, spend more time in the hospital, and take more prescription medications. Exercise is also as good for the mind as it is for the body. It can help to ease stress, anxiety and alleviate depression. This is why the organization offers a number of fitness tips for seniors.
Numerous studies have shown that seniors who participate in a regular exercise program can also prevent and recover from falls much better than their peers who are not as active. This is because exercise makes muscles and bones stronger, and slows the weakness and frailty that often come with aging.
While beginning a regular exercise program can seem overwhelming, there are some fitness tips for seniors that can make the process much easier. The NIH recommends that all seniors regularly participate in strength, balance, flexibility and endurance exercises.
- Strength: When you think about working out, your first thought is probably lifting weights and other strength workouts. While these are very important to build muscle strength, they are only one part of a comprehensive exercise program.
- Endurance: Endurance activities are also known as cardio workouts. They include any activity that increases your heart rate. Many seniors enjoy walking, swimming or biking as a favorite endurance activity. You may not be able to do more than a few minutes of these workouts when you first begin your program, but you will build endurance over time.
- Balance: Exercises that focus on balance are very important for seniors. They strengthen the muscles in the legs and core. Having strength in these areas helps to prevent falls.
- Stretching: Stretching improves your flexibility. This helps your range of movement, and means you are less likely to injure yourself if you do fall. It will also help in your daily activities, because you will be able to move better and without pain.
Before starting any exercise program, it’s important to get medical clearance from your health care team. Talk to your primary care doctor about your fitness and endurance. Your doctor will probably make recommendations about suitable activities based on your health and mobility. Your health care provider may also recommend physical fitness programs, gyms, or personal trainers in your area that offer services for seniors. If you don’t have access to a gym or personal trainer, the National Institute on Aging offers examples of exercises for seniors that you can do at home.
There are even exercise programs for seniors that begin with chair-based exercises focused on balance and building leg strength. These chair exercises can also be good for seniors who are just beginning their exercise programs, have been injured, have a disability or weight problems.
Staying active as you age is one way to remain mobile and independent longer. It is a good idea to consider ways to add activity to your schedule, and talk to your doctor about the best exercise regimen for your needs. Regular exercise brings better health, and quicker recoveries even if you do become sick or are injured.
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