One of the most important things you can do to remain healthy, mobile, and independent is to exercise regularly. According to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, older adults need at least two days of strength exercises and a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise each week. Exercise for seniors is designed to improve endurance, strength, and flexibility. It is also specifically designed to be low-impact in order to prevent joint injuries.
Many community centers, health clubs, and gyms offer personal training programs and group exercise classes specifically for seniors. If you don’t have a membership, the National Institute on Aging recommends specific low-impact exercises you can do at home to stay in shape. Take the time to check with your doctor before you start any new exercise regimen.
Most aerobic exercises are also endurance exercises — they raise the heart rate and burn more calories than any other type of exercise. Unfortunately, aerobic exercise can be hard on the joints and bones. Running, jumping, and traditional aerobics classes aren’t necessarily your best bet. Instead, consider a low-impact option such as water aerobics if you have access to a swimming pool.
If water’s not your thing, you can do ball-based workouts or even use a mini trampoline to get your heart pumping. Some fitness centers and senior centers offer special chair-based classes for seniors with limited mobility. If you enjoy traditional dance-based aerobics classes, look for a Zumba Gold class, a Latin-inspired dance workout that has been modified active older adults.
Weightlifting and resistance exercises are by default low-impact. At home, exercise for seniors can involve the use of resistance bands or small weights to keep muscles strong and pliable. If you don’t have bands or weights, you can look instead to common household items. For example, cans of soup typically weigh a little less than a pound, while a gallon of water weighs about eight pounds. Gyms feature special weightlifting machines — ask a staff member to train you on the equipment to make sure you’re using it correctly.
Flexibility is important as we age — flexible people have a greater range of motion, which in turn means they are less likely to be injured and can get up easier if they fall. Stretching for just ten minutes each day is highly advised. While you can do this at home, it can also be combined with other types of exercise in yoga, Pilates, or tai chi classes — plus you get the benefit of working with an instructor who can guide you through the moves.
No matter your age or health status, staying as active as possible will ensure you look and feel your best. By building your endurance, strength, and flexibility, you’ll enjoy a greater quality of life. Ask your healthcare provider if you are healthy enough for a new exercise program, and get started today.