One of the best ways to feel your best at any age is to stay physically active.
For people 65 and older, regular exercise helps you stay healthy and vibrant. It reduces the risk of heart disease, diabetes, depression and some types of cancer. It also helps you live independently longer.
Even better news? There are lots of fun, invigorating exercises you can enjoy year–round, both indoors and out. For best results, you’ll want to include four main types of exercise in your routine: endurance, strength, balance and flexibility.
This type of exercise temporarily raises your breathing and heart rate and is great for your heart, lungs and circulatory system. It makes it easier to perform routine activities of daily living and to enjoy fun things like playing with your grandkids. It’s also known as aerobic or cardiovascular exercise.
Aim to get at least 150 minutes of endurance exercise per week, or about 2 ½ hours. Great cardio exercises for seniors include walking, jogging, dancing, swimming or biking. Always warm up and cool down with light, easy movements to safely raise and lower your heart rate. Stay hydrated while exercising, and stop if you feel dizzy, chest pain or other troubling symptoms. Stay aware of your surroundings when exercising outdoors and wear a helmet if you’re riding a bike.
Maintaining strong muscles promotes good balance and lowers your risk of a fall. It also helps with things like getting out of a chair, climbing stairs and carrying shopping bags.
Include strength training at least two days per week, with at least a day off in between to let your muscles recover. You can use equipment such as light weights or resistance bands, or you can use your own body weight for resistance. Good strength exercises include wall pushups, toe taps, heel raises and knee lifts.
Never hold your breath during strength exercises! Instead, exhale when lifting the weight and inhale when lowering it. Choose a weight that’s heavy enough to challenge your muscles but light enough that you can lift it safely. Ask your doctor if you’re unsure about whether a particular exercise is right for you.
You can do both balance and flexibility exercises on most days of the week. Improving your sense of balance makes you steadier on your feet and reduces the risk of falling.
Good balance exercises for seniors include standing on one foot, heel-to-toe walking and shifting your weight from side to side. Another excellent option is Tai Chi, which involves slowly and gently shifting your body while breathing deeply.
Stand close to a sturdy piece of furniture, wall or railing while performing balance exercises, and support yourself as needed. Talk to your doctor for recommendations on doing balance exercises safely.
Flexibility exercise, or stretching, improves your range of motion and relieves muscle tension. It helps with activities like tying your shoes or looking over your shoulder when backing up your car.
For your upper body, perform gentle stretches for your arms, chest, back, shoulders and neck. Lower body exercises include calf, ankle, quadricep and hamstring stretches.
Before you stretch, always warm up your muscles with a few minutes of light cardiovascular activity such as walking. It’s also a great idea to stretch after endurance or strength exercises to help your muscles recover. Never stretch so far that it hurts, and don’t hold your breath!
If you’re new to exercise or if you’ve been sedentary for several years, start slowly. Doing too much too soon can lead to injury or frustration, which makes you less likely to stick with it. Choose easier, low-intensity activities first, and gradually introduce more challenging exercises as your ability level increases. Drink water before, during and after exercise, and wear comfortable clothing and appropriate shoes. Talk to your doctor about which exercises would be safest and most effective for you.
Residents at the Terrace Retirement Community enjoy a number of amenities and activities to support a healthy, active lifestyle. Join your neighbors for wellness and exercises classes such as Tai Chi and Senior Salsa. You can also work out in the fitness center, take a refreshing walk along our outdoor path, or grow your own garden.
Want to learn more? Contact us today for a free information packet or to schedule a visit!