We all know exercise is important for our health, but did you know that it’s even more important for those over 65? You might worry that your senior loved one will fall or hurt themself, but the benefits of exercise for seniors far outweigh the risks, even for those who are frail or suffering from age-related disease – as long as it’s the right kind of exercise done safely.
Exercise can help extend seniors’ lives and improve their quality of life. It helps seniors prevent falls and injuries, feel strong, and have more energy, so they can remain independent. It can also reduce the risk of developing medical conditions and improve existing ones, including Alzheimer’s and diabetes. It also improves blood pressure and reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke.
It’s actually more dangerous for seniors to NOT exercise. When seniors aren’t active, their bodies stop being able to do things they once could. Not only are seniors who aren’t active less independent, but they’re more likely to fall and injure themselves.
Now that we know why exercise is important for seniors, it’s time to help them get active! Find an exercise program your senior loved one will enjoy, so they’ll stick with it. Water aerobics, swing dancing, tai chi, and golf are all excellent exercise opportunities for seniors. Many exercises can also be done at home and don’t require special equipment. On the other hand, seniors’ classes at your local community centre are fun, social, and supervised by a trained professional.
There are four types of exercise seniors should incorporate in their routine for a well-rounded exercise program to help them stay fit, happy, and healthy.
Also known as aerobic exercise, endurance exercise gets the heart rate up and gets the respiratory and cardiovascular systems working. Doctors recommend 30 minutes of endurance exercise a day for seniors, which can be broken down into three 10-minute periods for those new to an exercise routine.
The best endurance exercises for seniors are low-impact cardio, like brisk walking, cycling, and dancing. Many community centres offer swimming and water aerobics, which are easier on the joints, and fun classes like tai chi, square dancing, and Zumba Gold, a low-impact dance class designed specifically for older adults. When it’s nice out, take your senior loved one outside for a walk, hike, or even a friendly tennis match to add some vitamin D and socializing to their routine. A senior should notice a difference after a couple weeks of endurance exercise – they’ll be able to work out and perform their day-to-day activities without getting winded or tired.
Strength and resistance exercises build muscle and strengthen bones. Even small changes to a senior’s strength can have a big impact on their life, by making it easier to do everyday tasks like carrying groceries, getting out of a chair, doing housework, and climbing stairs. Strengthening major muscle groups can also help seniors avoid falls and broken bones and prevent osteoporosis and bone loss.
Doing strength and resistance exercises twice a week is recommended for seniors. They can use one- or two-pound weights or resistance bands, and do 10 to 15 repetitions of exercises like biceps curls and chest presses, progressively increasing the weights as it gets easy for them to build strength. They can also do bodyweight exercises that don’t require equipment. Lunges, leg raises, squats, and modified push-ups on a wall can all help seniors get stronger. Seniors can also sign up at a local gym or community rec centre to use the equipment or attend classes.
Improving balance is very important for seniors because it improves posture and minimizes the risk of falls, which minimizes the risk of injuries. Yoga and tai chi are great activities that help promote and maintain balance, but there are also simple balance exercises seniors can do at home, like standing on one foot, walking heel to toe, back leg raises, and side raises. Practice doing these while resting a hand on a sturdy chair before reaching the comfort level of doing them freestanding.
Flexibility and stretching exercises help seniors stay limber, prevent injury, and reduce muscle soreness and stiffness. It helps them retain their range of motion, so basic daily tasks, like reaching the top shelf and getting dressed, are easy still easy to do as they age. Simple stretches, like neck and leg stretches, can be done at home to start the day or before other exercises. There are also stretching classes designed specifically for seniors, and yoga and Pilates classes available at many rec centres.