Best Exercises for Seniors

The importance of exercise is well known and highly praised.  With new gimmicks and the latest fad diets, it’s hard to know how to go about getting, much less staying, healthy. This issue gets even more important with age. A regular exercise routine can help seniors avoid chronic diseases, such as Alzheimer disease, high blood pressure and heart disease . Exercise helps maintain strength and promote proper blood flow, which can help maintain independence with daily activities and help prevent decreases in overall health.

Benefits Of Exercise For Seniors

  • Better quality of sleep. Those who perform regular exercise sleep more easily and deeply.
  • Greater social interaction. Joining a fitness class or gym is a great way of meeting new people. A 10 minute walk with a friend helps with stress relief.
  • Release of natural endorphins. Exercise helps release endorphins which make people feel more contented and happier.
  • Prevention of Alzheimer disease and dementia. Exercise improves brain functionality and helps combat diseases. It also assists with fighting forms of depression.
  • Weight loss. Regular activity for the senior helps reduce excess weight, especially if done in conjunction with a calorie-controlled diet.
  • Assists joints. Building the muscles around certain joints is an important seniors exercise. For example, building the muscles around the knee through leg extensions helps prevent joints being worn away.
  • Immunity to viruses and infections. The body is better placed to fight off sickness so recovery time is reduced.

Precautions for Seniors Prior to Exercise

  • Get a check up from the family doctor. Start training gradually and slowly increase physical exercise each day to build stamina and conditioning.
  • Warm up. It is important to do plenty of stretching and to warm up properly. Failing to warm up could lead to injuries and be counter-productive.
  • Consume liquids. Taking a bottle of water to the gym is important in terms of keeping the body hydrated and flushing toxins. Take regular sips of water during training.
  • Focus on form and not the amount of weight lifted. Trying to lift too much can only serve to cause serious injury.

It is hard to emphasize strongly enough the importance of getting a full health check up before engaging in physical exercise. If knee pain is an issue, a specific exercise routine needed to be used. Being able to avoid chronic diseases and simply feeling better is well worth 30 minutes of each day.

Walking

Walking is simple, requires minimal equipment, can be done indoors or outside, and offers great health benefits. Walking routes can be as varied as the people who choose them. Many seniors prefer the sights and sounds of nature as they walk outside. Towns may offer beautiful landscaping or unusual walking opportunities such as a walking maze or labyrinth.

Others may enjoy the controlled temperature of places such as a local mall or indoor track. Treadmills can vary the slope and speed at the touch of a button, and water walking can provide added resistance while giving a welcome relief from the heat. Some gyms and other indoor areas may offer a free or reduced rate to seniors who only wish to walk.

Try to walk slightly faster than normal to increase the heart rate and boost cardiovascular conditioning.  A walking routine offers seniors many health benefits, such as:

  • Weight control
  • Lower bad cholesterol levels (LDL)
  • Increased good cholesterol levels (HDL)
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Control blood sugar & diabetes
  • Providing stress relief

Make Walking Safe

Seniors should check with their doctor before beginning a walking program. For instance, someone who has recently had heart surgery may benefit from a walking program associated with a cardiac rehabilitation program where trained professionals can provide assessment, education, and guidance. All seniors in a walking program should:

  • Follow any physician directives
  • Listen to their bodies
  • Warm up
  • Stretch
  • Cool down
  • Ensure that they are adequately hydrated by drinking water

Walking shoes should have non-slip soles and should fit comfortably. Seniors should inspect the inside of the shoes to ensure that no gravels, mulch, or other items are inside the shoe before placing them on the feet. Shoes that enclose the toes and heel provide more protection. Clothing should be comfortable and appropriate for the weather to prevent cold weather injuries or heat-related problems.

Tips to Help Seniors Commit to a Walking Program

Sometimes it is difficult to keep the commitment to walk daily. So here are few tips that can help:

  • Find an accountability partner – talking while walking can be enjoyable and can help people to gauge their intensity level. People who are exercising in their target heart rate zone usually can talk in short phrases while exercising. This also gives an added safety bonus if one person needs assistance. The American Heart Association offers an online social network for walkers called Start! Walking for a Healthier Lifestyle.
  • Seniors who walk a dog may be more likely to stick with a walking program.
  • Try a pedometer – some are as inexpensive as $1.00 and can help walkers to put their workout into numerical form by recording the number of steps taken. Online pedometers can help seniors map routes.
  • Keep an exercise journal or record – Write walking workouts on a calendar, make a spreadsheet, or use an online journal to help track progress.
  • Some health insurance companies, senior centers, health clubs, etc. offer incentives for exercising. Seniors may offer themselves a reward for milestones as well.
  • Add music – Favorite tunes may add more enjoyment to the walk. Wearing headphones may be a safety hazard for some seniors, so check with a physician before using them while walking. Some gyms offer music that appeals to many seniors during certain hours.
  • Vary the routine – If the walking routine is becoming rather routine, look for ways to freshen it up or cross train with other activities such as group exercise classes, water classes, or yoga.

Cross-trainer as an Alternative to Walking and Running

Using the cross-trainer enables the user to monitor their heart rate whilst training. The level can be changed to optimise resistance. This exercise has a minimal negative impact on joints.

Swimming – One of the Best Exercises for Seniors

Swimming enhances cardiovascular health, strengthens all muscle groups and reduces stress and anxiety. Swimming may even lengthen life span. Best of all, you do not need to be young and athletic to swim, take swimming lessons, or participate in water aerobics.

Senior Swimming for Muscle Strength

The National Institute on Aging state that strength exercises help regulate weight and blood sugar and prevent age-related muscle loss. Water acts in the same manner as resistance training with bands and weights because it has 12 times the resistance of air. One square foot of water weighs 62.4 pounds.

Swimming is unique in that it requires action by all muscle groups in the body. The biceps and triceps in the arms, the gluteal, hamstring and quadriceps in the legs, as well as the abdominal muscles are all required to swim.

Senior Swimming for Balance

According to the National Institutes of Health, falls are the primary cause of permanent disability in senior citizens. Therefore, exercise for improved balance and coordination is an integral part of the NIH exercise for seniors program.

Because swimming requires spontaneous utilization of every muscle group in the body in unison, it improves coordination. Balance is further improved by strengthening the leg muscles.

Swimming for Improved Flexibility

Because of the all-encompassing nature of swimming, it is a perfect exercise for maintaining flexibility as we age. Swimming enhances flexibility in the neck and upper spine, shoulders, hips, arms and legs. However, swimming cannot substitute for stretching exercises recommended by the NIH.

Senior Swimming for Endurance

Endurance exercise means aerobic exercise. For seniors to maintain cardiovascular health, they need to do exercise that requires constant breathing. Swimming is a dynamic exercise requiring steady breathing and motion of all parts of the body. It is the only aerobic exercise that does not cause an increase in blood pressure during the exercise period, because the body remains cool during swimming.

Key Exercises For Seniors

The main focus of exercise with the seniors is maintenance. It is important for the senior to maintain appropriate physical levels for as long as possible. It’s essential for even the most basic tasks, such as showering, grocery shopping, and house cleaning. Think of how vital each one of those is to everyday life. There are several types of training that an older person can do at home to help maintain what fitness level they currently have.

Stretching

It is important to be sure to stretch at least once for each major joint. Keep the stretches simple with easy, slow movements. Each stretch should be held for at least 15 seconds and performed three times.

For the upper body, stretch the hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders, neck, chest, and back. On the lower body, the hips, knees, ankles, and toes need stretching. Both sides of the body should be stretched to get the maximum benefit and to maintain equality.

Leg extensions

Strengthening the muscles around the knee is a great starting point as it prevents joints being worn away. This can increase the longevity of the knee and help prevent the need for premature knee replacements.

Abdominal crunches

The correct execution of crunches helps build abdominal muscles and strengthen the back, helping to prevent back injury and spasms.

Strength Training

Light weights with high repetitions are the key when exercising with the seniors. This type of strengthening routine builds stamina and endurance and prevents muscle atrophy, which is essential in day-to-day activities.

Balance Training

Every year, one in three seniors will fall, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Of these persons over 65, falls are the leading cause of death from injury. People who fall suffer trauma such as hip fractures, head injuries, and cuts and scratches. These falls can be prevented by improving your strength and balance. Here are a number of exercises to reduce your risk of falling.

Foot Flex

The plantar fascia is the ligament that holds up the arch of the foot. Sometimes it gets inflamed, which is called plantar fasciitis, and causes a lot of foot pain. This exercise will help prevent that pain.

Make sure you feel steady before attempting this exercise. Hold onto a table with a hand to start, then one finger, then none, and finally with your eyes closed, but only if you feel steady. Steps:

  • Stand up straight, holding onto a chair for support.
  • Slowly rise up on tip toe.
  • Pause.
  • Slowly lower your heels to the floor.
  • Repeat 8 to 10 times.

This exercise improves balance, and strengthens the ankles.

Knee Strengthener

The knees tend to get weak, particularly in women, so it is to your advantage to keep the knees strong. Steps:

  • Stand up straight, holding onto a chair for support.
  • Slowly bend one knee behind you as far as possible.
  • Pause.
  • Slowly lower your foot to the floor.
  • Repeat with the other knee.
  • Repeat 8 to 10 times
  • This exercise improves knee strength. Don’t worry if you hear popping sounds – those are just your joints being lubricated.

Hip Flexibility

Muscle mass tends to be lost as people age. The longer people can keep their strength and flexibility, the better. Steps:

  • Stand up straight; hold onto a table or chair for balance.
  • Slowly bend one knee up to your chest, without bending at the waist.
  • Pause.
  • Repeat with the other knee.
  • Repeat 8 to 10 times on each knee.
  • This is a good exercise to improve balance.

Anytime Exercises

These exercises will improve balance and can be done most any time, any where, and as often as you want. Make sure you have something to help keep you steady.

  • Walk heel to toe. Touch the heel of your right foot to the toes of the left foot with the first step. Then touch the heel of your left foot to the toes of the right foot with the second step. Continue walking this way for as long as you want.
  • Stand on one foot. Then stand on the other foot. This is good exercise to do while standing in line, as long as you feel steady.
  • When sitting, stand up without using your hands.
  • When standing, sit down without using your hands.

Balance training should be kept simple. The only way to improve balance is to challenge it. This type of training is best accomplished by progressively increasing the challenge.