If you have a loved one who is aging, or else you are finding yourself in the “latter prime” of your life, you have undoubtedly found that, along with eating habits and sleeping habits, a person’s exercise habits at this age look a little different than they did ten years ago. You know that health is important no matter how old you are, but what is the best way to stay fit as you age? Are there specific exercise tips for seniors? Is it too late, by the time you’ve reached this stage of your life, to start exercising effectively? If you’ve found your exercise level dwindling as you’ve aged, you’re not alone. In fact, US News Health reports that 40% of women and 30% of men over 70 say that they never exercise.
May 25th is National Senior Health and Fitness Day. With a whole day dedicated to this important topic, we’d like to lay out for you why exercise is actually extremely beneficial to men and women in their 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, and even 90’s.
- Exercise can help with other aging-related aches and pains. In fact, exercise is great for those afflicted with arthritis – it increases flexibility, eases painful joints, and improves overall muscle mass. For example, strengthening quadriceps is helpful for arthritis-caused knee pain. Also, aerobic exercise and strength training can improve bone density, balance, and muscle function.
- Keep active, stay independent. Seniors who exercise are less likely to become disabled, says a 2014 study published by the Journal of American Medical Association. This study involved over 1,600 men and women aged 70-89 who did not exercise, and all of whom were considered frail. Half were assigned to an exercise program that included strength and balance exercises and walking, and the other half attended educational workshops about exercise, as well as gentle stretching routines. After 2 ½ years, the group who exercised were 28% less likely to have become disabled (that is, unable to walk 400 yards without assistance).
- Want to stay sharp? Put on those walking shoes. Seniors who exercise are more likely to enjoy an elevated mood, better self-confidence, easier multi-tasking, and perhaps even a lower likelihood of developing dementia.
Senior citizens who want to get started with an exercise routine should talk with their doctor to get a medical clearance, and then start slow.
- Instead of a two-mile power walk your first day, try starting with two 10-minute exercise increments, and build your way up to 30 minutes, or more.
- For weight training, start with 1 or 2-pound weights, and work your way up.
- Drink well, drink often. The Mayo Clinic reports that older adults are more likely to become dehydrated because your sense of thirst becomes less acute, and your body loses some of its ability to conserve water. Moral of the story: never forget to bring your water bottle when exercising.
- Remember to warm up, cool down, and do some gentle stretching surrounding each exercise session. These steps can be time-consuming, but are worth the joy of exercising without resulting pain or injury.
- And then, stick with it! Habit is an exerciser’s best friend. You’ll enjoy the benefits of exercise as long as you stick with it faithfully and regularly.
To celebrate National Senior Health Day, make a positive step towards improving your health, and the health of senior citizens in your life. With a few easy lifestyle changes, your Golden Years could be some of your best years.