As you get older, a lot of things change, including your biology and physical make-up. This makes it crucial to ensure a healthy diet and physical activity remain a priority during those later years. Exercise has many health benefits for seniors, such as preventing injury, increasing recovery time, staying limber and mobile, and helping joint and nerve pain. However, everyone’s body is different, and exercises are not a one-size-fits-all for seniors. So here are some safe (and effective) workouts for seniors that can keep you happy, healthy, and active each day.
The Benefits of Regular Exercise in Older Adults
There are numerous benefits to regular exercise for people of all ages. It’s essential to remain active to maintain your physical shape and be healthier overall. Here are some of the significant benefits of exercise for aging adults.
One of the main reasons seniors lose some of their independence is that they can’t perform basic duties or chores by themselves. A lot of this can be due to physical limitations or impairment. Regular exercise can help individuals stay more mobile for longer, which means more independence and managing daily tasks better on their own, at least for a while.
Improve Heart Health
Exercise has been shown to help keep blood pressure and cholesterol in check. This is very important for preventing coronary heart disease, which can put a lot of strain on the body as you age. Exercise also increases your good cholesterol levels while lowering bad cholesterol levels as well as triglyceride counts.
Increase Mobility and Flexibility
It stands to reason that the older you get, the harder it is for your body to move and bend as easily or quickly. Regular exercise can help reverse this. But, of course, exercises should be done in moderation, so they don’t do more harm than good when performed incorrectly.
Prevent Injury + Increase Recovery Time
Exercise and physical activity are great ways to keep your body limber and mobile. It can also help you avoid injury by making certain muscle groups stronger and improving recovery time if an injury should occur. In addition, by staying active throughout the years, it’s possible to avoid many of those nagging injuries that seem to happen with age, such as back pain, arthritis flare-ups, and other problems.
Decrease Joint Pain
As you age, your joints can be affected in many ways. This includes the deterioration of cartilage and increased stiffness due to arthritis or other health conditions. All these factors make exercise more difficult for seniors who may become less mobile over time and experience pain in their legs, hips, feet, or back when performing exercises like standing up from sitting down or walking for long periods of time. However, keeping the body moving even a little bit each day can help counteract the effects of joint pain and arthritis.
Better Balance + Fall Prevention
Many seniors experience a decline in balance as they age. This can lead to falls and injuries, which can be very harmful. Regular exercises that help with muscle strength (such as walking or running), coordination, and stability (such as yoga) are all great ways for older individuals to stay safe during their routines at home or outside of the house.
Prevent and Counteract Disease
Exercise has been shown to decrease the chances of many diseases such as heart disease, osteoporosis, and diabetes. It also helps with other common ailments seniors experience, such as arthritis or simply being overweight from lack of exercise, leading to hypertension, a major risk factor for cardiovascular-related issues.
As we age, many of us tend to put on some extra pounds. Unfortunately, this is another factor that can make exercises difficult and increase your risk for injury and other health complications. However, regular exercise (even if it’s just a short routine) helps burn calories and boosts metabolism so you can maintain healthy body weight.
We know it sounds counterintuitive, but exercising actually boosts energy levels overall. This is because endorphins are released during exercise and naturally give you the energy to last throughout the day. Exercise can also help you sleep better because you are properly utilizing energy in the day. Your body syncs into a healthy rhythm, making you tired at night rather than throughout the day. Endorphins are also natural pain relievers and can help counteract feelings of depression—so it’s a win-win all around.
Improve Mental Health + Brain Function
Physical activity is just as important for your brain as it is for your body. It can help with memory, and it exercises the mind, keeping you sharp as well as boosting brain function, which helps lower Alzheimer’s risk in seniors. Keeping a healthy weight, exercising regularly, and eating right all work together to keep both the body and mind fit and healthy.
Safe, Effective Exercises for Anyone 60+
Seniors should exercise at least three times per week for 30 minutes to keep their bodies healthy and active as long as possible. Still, exercises can be done daily or even multiple times a day, depending on each individual’s physical abilities/limitations. With that said, exercises do not need to be strenuous—they just have to get the heart rate elevated and the body moving. Here are some safe yet effective exercises for older adults to maintain their health.
This is one of the more commonly known senior exercises, and rightfully so. It’s incredibly low-impact, gets the heart rate up, and is a fun social activity as well. Water aerobics works by strengthening the muscles and improving mobility. It exercises both large muscle groups (such as your quads, hamstrings, chest) and small ones like those in your hands or feet—the latter of which helps with balance issues seniors may experience over time.
Resistance bands (such as those used in physical therapy) are a great, low-impact way to strengthen muscles and improve flexibility. They come in many different resistance levels, so the exercises can be tailored to each individual’s ability level—making them beneficial for people with arthritis or other joint pain/injuries who still want to get their heart rate up and their blood flowing.
This is an excellent exercise for seniors because it exercises the mind and the body, which helps decrease depression rates in older adults while also helping to improve brain function and memory over time. It’s considered low-impact (especially if they do chair yoga) but has multiple health benefits that make this an exercise worth trying out if they aren’t sure where to get started.
Going for Walks
Going for a walk: it’s simple yet so effective. Walking is a great, low-impact exercise that gets the heart rate up and exercises all the muscle groups. It also allows seniors to get some much-needed fresh air—which helps boost mood and improve mental health.
Strength Training (Light Weights)
Strength training is one of the best exercises anyone can do, of any age. Older adults should definitely stick to lighter weights (1 to 3 lbs) to avoid injury, but even a light weight with enough reps can work up a sweat.
Body Weight Exercises
Bodyweight exercises are a great way for seniors to get in an effective workout from home or even while out and about. Push-ups, squats, and lunges work the whole body but do not require any equipment other than one’s own body weight. And they can be modified according to each person’s physical ability/limitations, so there is a lot of flexibility with these movements as well.
A stationary bike can be a little cumbersome and dangerous for older adults with minimal mobility. However, a stationary recumbent bike is perfect for those who want to boost their cardio and get a leg workout at the same time. There’s no balance involved, and resistance can be adjusted from super easy to very hard, depending on the person.
For ultra-low-impact exercises, seniors can work out from a seated position in a chair. They can utilize light weights, resistance bands, do leg lifts—you name it. As long as you move the body at least once a day for 30 minutes, you’re doing the right thing.
As you can see, exercises do not need to be strenuous, but they should get the heart rate up and make it feel as if you’ve actually done something. But just because an exercise isn’t strenuous doesn’t mean it can’t cause injury or exacerbate existing pain/issues, so always make safety a priority and only do what you are physically capable of. Always consult with your doctor before starting any new exercises, especially if you have existing pain/issues.
A regular exercise regimen, social activities, and a healthy diet are the perfect combination to live a long and healthy life. At Sunflower Communities, we ensure our residents have access to all of the above. See our activity calendar and other amenities here, and reach out if you are interested in touring our senior living community!