We may slow down slightly as we age, but this doesn’t mean seniors don’t stay active! Studies show that active seniors generally feel better and enjoy longer lives life. Activities and hobbies help our senior loved ones stay connected to life and to the community, which helps us stay healthy and happy. It’s never too late to start moving and to feel great with an active lifestyle!
Many seniors may feel like exercise is not for them, or that as they age they become unable to enjoy many activities. The truth is that exercise is an even more important part of our routine as we age. An active lifestyle boosts your energy, helps to protect your heart, allows you to stay independent, manage pain and prevent and treat illnesses. The benefits of activity are visible in your mood, memory, and outlook. In this blog post, we have highlighted some of the many benefits of fitness for seniors and some tips for safe and effective exercise.
Recent studies have implied that physical activity is the most effective tool to help you extend the length and quality of your life – activity can actually help you live longer! Even if you have only started exercise very recently, you can still benefit from improved longevity and quality of life.
The physical benefits of regular exercise are well known. Activity and exercise improve your strength and flexibility, correct your posture, and enhance your balance and flexibility. Improving these important preventive measures can reduce the risk of falling. Strengthening and training your muscles is known to alleviate chronic symptoms from ailments like arthritis.
Exercise boosts the metabolism and fights the effects of aging that contribute to bone and muscle loss. Regular exercise also helps to create healthy digestion and reduce blood pressure. Using more calories also makes weight management easier. You can prevent chronic disease and illness with regular exercise, including conditions like obesity, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, and certain cancers.
A variety of mental and psychological benefits are associated with exercise. Regular exercise elevates your mood and increases your self-confidence. Endorphins released during exercise help to treat conditions like depression and anxiety. Consistent exercise also improves sleep, allowing you to fall asleep more easily, enjoy deeper sleep, and wake feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.
There is no better way to help your brain than to exercise! While Sudoku and other mental activities are great ways to keep your brain active, exercise increases blood flow to the brain more than any other activity. Exercise can improve multitasking, increase creativity and prevent the loss of memory. It can also keep dementia and Alzheimer’s disease at bay.
Many seniors say, “But I’m too OLD too exercise. I don’t even like to exercise. How do I get started – what if I fall down?” There are many ways to exercise and make activity a regular part of your life. Start simply – it can be as easy as getting out into the garden or walking around your assisted living community. You can work your way up to more challenging exercise. Don’t be afraid to ask for help – a partner help you to stay safe and help you find motivation to stick with your routine.
Find a way to enjoy your routine – if you don’t like an activity you won’t do it. There are so many ways to combine what you love with exercise! Try these ideas:
- Walk the golf course rather than driving the golf cart
- Go walking and window shopping at the mall
- Take some time to go for a walk with a friend
- Listen to music or audio books while exercising
- Ask a friend to join a team with you, like tennis or bowling
- Use photography as an excuse to go hiking for wildlife photos
- Try something new like Yoga and meet new friends
- Use a treadmill while watching TV or the news
- Play with a dog – yours or a neighbor’s!
- Use exercise when you are angry or stressed to calm down
Make a plan and you’ll be more like to succeed in keeping a consistent fitness regime. Plan activities so that you can balance your fitness program and get the most from your activity. Focus on a variety of activities and exercises to get the most benefit from your efforts:
BALANCE TRAINING: Improve your balance to perform daily activities better and reduce your risk of falling.
CARDIO: Sustained activity works your heart and increases energy and mental sharpness. Cardiovascular exercise also burns calories, helping to maintain a healthy weight and improve endurance.
STRENGTH TRAINING: Strength makes it easier to perform daily activities and improves balance. Resistance exercise also strengthens bones.
FLEXIBILITY: A flexible body improves freedom of motion and reduces inflammation and pain. Flexibility is also key to balance and strength.
Plan a routine that includes activities like walking, weight lifting, swimming and yoga and you’ll find it easier to stay motivated. Lots of different types of exercise are the most effective way to keep fit. Look around your assisted living community to see what activities they offer, and anything that appeals to you! Anything to keep you moving.
Now that you have your plan, follow these guidelines to get started safely:
Talk to your Doctor
Check with your doctor to make sure your plan is realistic. You want to make sure activity won’t interfere with any problems you may be experiencing. Make sure that there aren’t any activities you should avoid.
Make a Solid Plan
Make sure your exercise plan doesn’t compete with your senior care schedule and current health routine, and make sure that you arrange to take your medications when your assisted living community administers them if they should be taken at specific times. Be sure to pick the best time to exercise for you.
Listen to Your Body
Learn to listen to what your body is telling you – exercise may challenge you, but it shouldn’t make you feel poorly. If you feel dizzy or short of breath, if you have chest pain or pressure, or if you experience pain or break out in a cold sweat, stop immediately and contact your doctor. If joints are red, tender to the touch, or swollen, take the day off to talk to your doctor first. If exercise is consistently painful or leaves you sore, you might want to talk to a trainer or physical therapist about your routine. You may simply need to find different ways to exercise or exercise less.
Start with an easy program and increase difficulty. When you first begin working out you might do two very short 5-10 minute workouts daily as you work up to longer daily workouts. You can also choose start with a class only once or twice a week. If you are disabled or intimidated by exercise, start in your chair and slowly build up the ability to do more.
Prepare and Prevent
Prevent injury by performing warming up before every workout, and make sure you always have water nearby while exercising. Cool down is important, too. Try including stretching and breathing exercises to prevent injury and soreness.
Be in the Moment
Focus on how you feel when you are exercising and connect with how your body feels. Pay attention to the way a muscle works, how you breathe, and the feeling of stretching your muscles. Being in the moment allows you to get the most from your efforts while also relieving stress and anxiety. Being mindful of your body will help you to avoid accidents and injuries, and prevent problems before they become emergencies.
Commit to Consistency
Consistency helps build a habit, and the habit will keep you healthy! Don’t feel like you have to do the same thing every day (unless you want to), but make sure to include activity into every day. Once you get used to it, you will probably enjoy it!
Now you’re ready to get into the best shape of your life! Look around your assisted living community to find programs and activities that are perfect for you. Remember – have fun, and don’t be afraid to ask for help from a friend or family member. You might even help them to be healthier, too!