Exercise & Older Adults: Does exercise and aging mix? Yes indeed! The benefits of exercise are not lost as people age, and in fact, can even be more beneficial to seniors than to younger people. This is because while exercise helps prevent a host of diseases, aches, and pains, seniors are at much higher risk, and thus, benefit more from exercises’ ability to prevent the onset of such diseases.
- Mental Health: Exercise increases blood flow to all parts of your body – including the brain. Regular exercise has been shown to help prevent the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
- Disease Prevention: Exercise has also been shown to delay or completely prevent the onset of diseases commonly associated with growing older, including diabetes, colon cancer, heart disease, stroke, and more.
- Bone Density: Frail or brittle bones are a common problem for seniors, however, exercise has been proven to help maintain healthy bone density, actively preventing broken bones, hip replacements, and the like.
- Life Expectancy & Quality of Life: Even light or moderate physical activity can increase life expectancy. But more importantly, exercise will increase the quality of life of those extra years, with improved physical function, physical independence, and mental health.
Low-Impact Cardio for Seniors:
- Swimming: Swimming is the perfect exercise for aging adults. It is a zero-impact activity on the joints, plus, the bouyancy of the water helps bear the weight of adults of any & all sizes. This means that adults with chronic pain from bearing their own weight in the feet, knees, and hips will be relieved of this weight on their joints when submerged.
- Walking: This is most people’s go-to exercise, probably because it is the most low-maintenance activity of the lot. Studies have show that going for walks 2-3 times a week can significantly improve one’s health.
- Dancing: This form of exercise is great not only because of the physical component, but also because dancing improves mental & emotional health much more than any other form of exercise. One theory is because dancing requires much more mental concentration, adaptation, & creativity than other activities.
- Rowing: Super low-impact on all the joints, and is a great mixed cardio & strength workout. The rowing machine hits nearly all the major muscle groups, engaging the arms, legs, back, and abdominal muscles. However, if you have pre-existing back issues or back pain, avoid the rowing machine.
- Cycling: Once again, this is an activity that is low-impact on the joints. For older folks, stationary bikes (no risk of falling) and recumbent bikes (provides back support) are ideal. Be wary of the stationary bike if you have existing back problems, as cycling does a number on your spine if you’re hunched over the handlebars for too long.
- Elliptical: The elliptical was also chosen because it reduces the jarring of the joints, and is a great option for adults who like to run, but whose bodies can no longer tolerate running.
Strength Training for Seniors:
- Weight Training: Can seniors weight train? Most definitely! Just check out the “CF Masters” competition if you don’t believe me. Traditional weight training has all the same positive benefits for older folks as it does for younger folks. The key is to know your limits and listen to your body.
- Water Aerobics: Once again, the buoyancy of the water relieves older folks from bearing their own body weight, leaving them free to focus on working with water weights, & improving muscular strength using water resistance.
- Resistance Bands: Training with resistance bands are ideal because the elasticity allows anyone, of any strength, to move according to their own abilities. Plus, it’s nearly impossible to injure yourself with resistance bands.
- Tai Chi: An ancient practice of physical & mental mindfulness, Tai Chi has thousands of years of success with old & young people alike.
- Yoga: While yoga can be extremely an extremely beneficial form of strength training to anyone of any age, older folks have to be careful with the flexibility component. Practicing yoga mindfully – and with an instructor who understands the challenges of doing yoga at an older age – is still a great way to improve physical and mental health.