National Senior Health & Fitness Day
We regularly discuss the health conditions facing older adults and the steps they can take to treat these problems, but there's one thing everyone can do to maintain their well-being as they age: physical activity. Exercise has countless benefits for seniors, from reducing disease risk to improving mobility, and it's never too late to start getting active.
Senior Fitness Facts
Although we view the retirement years as a time of relaxation, it shouldn't be a time of dormancy. Regular physical activity can provide many benefits during your senior years:
- Helps to maintain mobility and living independently.
- Improves and maintains the strength of muscles, bones, and joints.
- Reduces the risk of falls and other accidents resulting in bone fractures.
- Controls joint swelling and inflammation and reduces arthritis pain.
- Can help reduce high blood pressure.
- Improves mortality for those with coronary heart disease.
- Reduces the risk of developing hypertension, colon cancer, and diabetes.
- Alleviates symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Despite all these profoundly beneficial effects, the rates of physical activity among all adults, including seniors, are limited:
- Only 28 to 34 percent of adults 65-74 are physically active.
- Only 35 to 44 percent of adults 75 or older are physically active.
- Over 25 percent of people with a disability report being physically inactive during a typical week -- twice as great a percentage as those without.
Senior Fitness and Health Tips
The benefits to staying active as a senior are incalculable, but many older adults have concerns about starting, whether it's due to mobility issues, fear of falling, or simply feeling like they're too old to begin exercise. But studies consistently show keeping active both improves general mood and reduces the risk of many health conditions facing seniors, and that it also helps maintain muscle mass and bone density. Here are some tips for starting out!
Start Safely: As with any lifestyle change, you should consult a medical professional. A doctor who is familiar with your medical history and needs can help guide you to the right activities for you. You'll find the most effective and safest activities for you.
A Balanced Exercise Plan: Mixing different kinds of activities can help make exercise more enjoyable and will promote a more comprehensive wellness. The four components of an exercise plan are: Balance, Flexibility, Cardio, and Strength Training. Incorporating different workouts from each of these categories, patterned to your needs, will help you achieve stronger muscles, improved bone density, lower fall risk, and increased endurance, all contributing to your independence. Examples of each category include:
- Balance: Yoga, Tai Chi, posture exercises.
- Flexibility: Yoga, stretches.
- Cardio: walking, hiking, stair climbing, swimming, rowing, cycling, tennis, dancing.
- Strength Training: lifting, resistance exercises, elastic bands, aquatic exercise.
Socialize: Exercising alone can be frustrating at any age, and keeping to a routine is much more fun when you've got someone to stay active alongside. Studies show that over 40 percent of seniors experience feelings of isolation and loneliness, and physical activity is great way to connect with people. Try nearby senior, community, or fitness centers for swimming facilities, walking groups, or classes in low-impact disciplines like yoga or Tai Chi.
Obviously, social distancing right now means that working out with others in inadvisable or in some places impossible. But you might consider starting a group over a video communication platform like Zoom, and work out online with like-minded seniors!
Incorporate Your Daily Routine: Much of the value of staying physically active as you age is in maintaining an independent lifestyle. You can develop an exercise plan based on what you do every day to keep your home and life in order, or even use your chores as a way of getting extra activity in. Gardening, lawn work, cleaning your house, carrying groceries -- all of these chores are opportunities to get on your feet.
Have Fun with It: Exercise can seem like a chore no matter how fit or regularly active you are. Finding ways to have fun with physical activity, or to make it easier on tougher days, can make all the difference. Adding a social element can help, of course, but if you're on your own for the day, try walking in a new environment like a zoo, beach, or accessible nature trail. And many seniors have taken up dancing as an activity outlet, or even video games with motion-sensitive technology and a fitness component.