Keeping fit as you age is essential for your health and independence. For instance, exercise keeps your heart and lungs healthy. However, it also reduces your risk of developing osteoporosis and improves your balance. Therefore, exercise both reduces your risk of falling and reduces the chance that you will break a bone if you fall. Today, our experts at Naples Vitality in Naples, FL are discussing how fitness for seniors can be achieved safely.
Fitness for Seniors: How Should Seniors Stay Healthy?
Fitness for seniors is crucial for indepence and health. However, it can be challenging. Fortunately, there is one form of exercise that almost everyone can do, walking. You should talk to your doctor about what your daily step goal should be based on your health. However, most seniors can benefit significantly from walking at least 10,000 steps daily.
If you have mobility problems, keep in mind that any walking is better than no walking. Also, working your way up to walking 10,000 steps daily will improve your mobility. If you’re in relatively good shape, you may enjoy strolling down park trails or gentle hiking paths with your children. Walking through parks is great because they usually have ample seating if you get tired. If you find walking difficult, you may want to walk on a treadmill or around your home.
Chair yoga is another incredibly accessible option to achieve the goal of fitness for seniors. However, the accessibility of chair yoga isn’t the only benefit. Research has shown that participating in chair yoga regularly improves flexibility, balance, and mobility. It also helps with muscle mass maintenance. Other benefits include improved mood, improved outlook on life, and deeper, more restful sleep. Some of the best chair yoga exercises include:
- Seated twist
- Seated cat stretch
- Seated cow stretch
- Overhead stretch
- Seated mountain pose
If you have access to a pool, you may benefit greatly from water aerobics. This form of fitness is incredibly beneficial for people of all ages because it is so easy on the joints. However, seniors in particular can get a lot out of water aerobics because the buoyancy of the water doesn’t just alleviate joint stress. It also provides natural resistance, eliminating the need for weights to get in a good resistance training session.
Also, the resistance of the water can provide a good aerobic workout in addition to providing a solid anaerobic workout depending on the intensity of the exercise performed. Like other great forms of fitness for seniors, water aerobics can help to improve flexibility, balance, and strength without taxing the joints. Some of the most beneficial water aerobics exercises that can be performed include:
- Arm curls
- Leg lifts
- Aqua jogging
- Flutter kicking
- Standing water push-ups
Dumbbell Strength Training
Water aerobics is great because it can provide a solid resistance workout without weights. However, when used with proper technique, dumbbells can be a great addition to a senior’s workout routine. Note, it is not just important that proper technique is used. It is also important that you do not push yourself too hard. It is advisable to focus on lighter weights, more repetitions per set, more sets, and plenty of time to rest between sets.
There are many benefits of dumbbell strength training, including muscle mass retention, improved glucose control, and a higher metabolism. Other benefits of weight lifting for seniors include the alleviation of back pain and depression, reduced diabetes symptoms, and a much lower chance of osteoporosis, better balance, and better flexibility. Here are some ideal dumbbell exercises for seniors:
- Overhead press
- Bicep curl
- Bent-over row
- Tricep extension
- Front raise
Body Weight Workouts
Approximately one-third of seniors suffer from extreme muscle loss. This is devastating for a number of reasons, including a loss of independence and a severe decrease in metabolism. Even worse, hormonal imbalances that are caused by the aging process further decrease the metabolism. Water aerobics and dumbbell strength training are great for resistance workouts. However, not everyone has access to a pool or dumbbells.
Fortunately, anyone can do body weight workouts. At most, the only equipment you will need is comfortable socks and shoes, a chair, and a step. You don’t even need to order a workout step like you see in aerobics videos. You can use the bottom step of the stairs in your home. Some of the best body weight workouts for seniors include:
- Side lying circles
- Lying hip bridges
- Bird dog
- Squats to chair
Pilates is another great, low-impact fitness method for seniors. This form of exercise has been practiced for over 100 years to strengthen the core, improve concentration, and practice deep breathing with pilates balls, light dumbbells, and a mat to soften the floor. It is an ideal way to strengthen the core to improve balance while increasing flexibility through such exercises as:
- Step ups
- Leg circles
- Side circles
- Foot slides
- Mermaid movement
Exercises Seniors Should Avoid
Most younger adults can incorporate any type of exercise into their fitness routine. They usually have healthier joints and extreme muscle gain or fat loss doesn’t put too much strain on their body. However, there are certain exercises that individuals who are over 65 should avoid, particularly if they have atrophied muscles, poor posture, balance issues, or joint pain. For instance, seniors should not perform leg presses or bench presses.
There are a couple of reasons for this. First, leg presses and bench presses are very hard on the joints. Second, a serious injury can occur, particularly when pressing without a spotter. Also, rock climbing should be avoided by seniors, particularly outdoor rock climbing. Even with a belayer, seniors may seriously injure themselves. Other exercises to avoid include:
- Long-distance running
- Abdominal crunches
Benefits of Regular Exercise for Seniors
Reduced Chance of Falling
There are many benefits of regular exercise for seniors, but one of the most compelling is the reduced risk of falling. Specifically, research has shown that regular exercise improves balance in seniors so much that the likelihood of falling decreases by 23%. Balance is crucial because, according to the National Council on Aging, a senior dies from a fall every 19 minutes, and a senior is admitted to the ER every 11 seconds for a fall-related injury.
Increased Energy Levels
At first glance, it may seem counterintuitive that regular exercise results in more energy. However, Newton’s first law of motion seems to apply just as well to people as it does to the way physics affects objects. Specifically, the more exercise you get, the more your brain produces endorphins. Endorphins are neurotransmitters that are crucial for your sense of well-being. They also:
- Promote healthy sleep
- Mitigate pain
- Make you feel more energetic
The more regularly you exercise, the more likely you are to not need help caring for yourself and your home. There is nothing wrong with having someone clean your house or cook for you.
However, seniors who do not exercise regularly often need around-the-clock care because they can’t bathe, dress, use the restroom, or get around their house alone. If you stay active as you age, there is a better chance that you will maintain your mobility and ability to care for yourself and your home.
Improved Brain Function
Research has also shown that regular exercise for seniors is conducive to a healthier mind. Specifically, research from the National Center for Biotechnology Information found that cognitive health was better in seniors who exercised regularly than seniors who didn’t. Also, the Alzheimer’s Research & Prevention Foundation conducted a study recently that showed regular exercise almost halved the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Mitigated Risk of Diseases
As a general rule, seniors are more likely to develop diseases than younger people. Among the most deadly diseases seniors are at risk for include type 2 diabetes, depression, osteoporosis, and heart disease. Research has shown that regular exercise mitigates the risk of developing these diseases. Also, exercise has been shown to treat the symptoms of these diseases in seniors who already have them.
Learn More Today
There are many ways to achieve fitness for seniors, including walking, chair yoga, and water aerobics. Staying fit as you age is essential for maintaining your independence and health. It can also improve your balance, mitigating your risk of a fall. To learn more about how to stay fit, contact us today at Naples Vitality in Naples, FL.