We all know that exercise and a good diet are essential to a healthy lifestyle. And as we age, this becomes even more true. Regular exercise is especially important for seniors. More seniors than ever are opting for an active lifestyle instead of a sedentary one. Today we are going to look at the 6 best exercises for seniors to keep them happy and moving.
The Benefits of Exercise for Seniors
Our bodies change as we get older, which means we have different reasons for staying in shape as seniors than we did when we were younger. While physical fitness provides benefits at any age, the health benefits physically fit seniors enjoy are notable. Doctors and researchers say seniors should remain active as possible as exercise can help you live a healthier and longer life.
Further, seniors who exercise regularly are less likely to depend on others. Regular exercises allow seniors to maintain their self-reliance and maintain their independence late into life. Exercise also helps reduce falls. Seniors 65 and older make up 95% of fall deaths in Australia each year. By exercising, seniors can prevent becoming part of that percentage.
Regular exercise also means more energy. Inactivity makes you tired, while activity gives you more energy, promoting the release of endorphins which are essential neurotransmitters linked to pain mitigation and a sense of well-being. These endorphins combat stress hormones and encourage healthy sleep habits.
Heart disease, osteoporosis, diabetes, and depression are the most common medical conditions among seniors. An active lifestyle can help prevent these conditions or reduce the symptoms of these diseases if your elderly loved one already suffers from one of these conditions.
Finally, regular exercise improves brain function and reduces the risk of developing Alzheimer’s and dementia by nearly 50%. A healthy body means a healthy mind, and seniors with active lifestyles have improved cognitive health.
6 Exercises for Seniors to Keep Them Happy and Moving
While exercise is incredibly important for seniors, it can be difficult to know where to begin. Especially if your loved one hasn’t worked out in a while. Re-entry into the active world can be daunting. It is also possible that exercises they did when they were younger are no longer doable. Below are our 6 exercises for seniors to keep them happy and moving.
*Remember, before launching into a new exercise regime, it is important to check with your doctor to ensure you are healthy enough for the particular exercise, and/or to see which exercises are ideal for your fitness level.*
1: Chair Yoga
Chair yoga is the perfect form of low-impact exercise that improves muscle strength, balance, mobility, and flexibility. All of these are crucial aspects of senior health. Chair yoga is a more accessible form of yoga and provides less stress on muscles, joints, and bones. It has also been shown to improve mental health in seniors. Regular chair yoga also leads to better quality sleep, less instances of depression, and a better sense of well-being.
2: Water Aerobics
Water aerobics have become an extremely popular form of exercise and rehabilitation for people of all ages. But it is particularly popular among seniors. Water exercises are ideal for those with arthritis and other forms of joint pain as the water puts less stress on the joints. Further, water provides natural resistance, eliminating the need for weights in this natural form of strength training. Water aerobics can improve a senior’s flexibility, strength, and balance, while putting minimal stress on their bodies.
Another popular, low-impact exercise is Pilates. Developed over a century ago, Pilates focuses on breathing, alignment, concentration, and core strength. This type of exercise typically involves mats, Pilates balls, and other accessories to build strength without the stress that comes from high-impact exercises. Pilates has also been shown to improve balance, increase flexibility, and develop core strength in seniors.
4: Resistance Workouts
Resistance workouts focus on using resistance bands to strengthen the core. Resistance bands are stretchy strips of rubber that add resistance to your workout without adding stress to your body. These workouts are beginner friendly, making them popular among seniors. Resistance band workouts have relatively cheap, up front costs, making them the ideal at-home exercise. These workouts also improve posture, balance, and mobility.
Walking is one of the least stressful and most accessible forms of exercise. However, for some seniors, walking is a bigger challenge than others. This means everyone will have their own unique distance and step goals. While doctors recommend 10,000 steps a day on average for a healthy lifestyle, those with arthritis, joint pain, disabilities, and difficulty walking may settle for a smaller goal. A study found that walking 10,000 steps reduced the ten-year outlook for mortality by 46%. Encouraging seniors to walk is important as it not only promotes a healthy lifestyle, it also strengthens muscles, and lowers the risk of colon cancer, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
6: Body Weight Workouts
Unfortunately, over a third of seniors suffer from severe muscle loss. Muscle loss can be devastating and incredibly debilitating for seniors. It can lead to hormonal issues, problems metabolising protein, and other similar conditions. Muscle atrophy is a serious issue and body weight workouts are one of the best ways to counteract this issue in seniors. It is also extremely affordable. The materials needed for body weight workouts generally only include workout clothes and a mat to soften the impact of the floor.
Are There Exercises Seniors Should Avoid?
Unfortunately, a number of common workouts are not ideal for seniors. They are more suited to younger people who are looking to lose weight or gain muscle tone. These workouts can put an unhealthy strain on seniors, especially if they have arthritis, joint pain, atrophied muscles, posture problems, or issues with balance. Seniors should avoid the following exercises:
- Weight training (with weight machines/bench press)
- Long-distance running/Marathons
- Upright rowing
- HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training)
- Rock Climbing
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