Yes, exercise is good for anyone, and especially for seniors. As we age, our bodies are growing weaker, less flexible, and becoming more prone to injuries. But did you know that many of these problems can be mitigated by taking up a basic, regular exercise? Aside from safety, physical activity often helps with Alzheimer’s, dementia, diabetes, heart-related diseases, colon cancer, high blood pressure and, of course, obesity. More pros include:
- building up strength
- gaining better balance
- achieving flexibility
- building up endurance
- improved immune function
- improved cardio-respiratory function
- improved cardiovascular function
- improved bone density
The ideal weekly exercise program should consist of 30 minutes of aerobic and endurance exercise such as walking, dancing, swimming or biking (daily). Furthermore 1 to 2 sets of 10 to 15 repetitions of strength or bodyweight exercises such as lifting weights, using a resistance band, lunges, sit-ups or leg raises (2 – 3x/week). Balance exercises are also an essential part of a regular exercise that can be executed anytime and anywhere, such as standing on one foot, walking heel-to-toe or back leg raises. Let’s also not forget stretching and flexibility exercises such as yoga or pilates.
Before you start
The first thing to do before starting with exercise should be checking with a doctor, even if we’re feeling well. The potential risks of injury with an incorrect exercise plan are real, and it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Once we’ve got a green across the board from our doctor, the next step is sitting down with a calendar, and making at least a month schedule in advance. Perseverance and regularity are important in the beginning stages. It is also a good idea to write your beginning values (weights, number of repetitions, minutes walked/swam etc….) and write down progress you make. It’s an excellent way to motivate yourself, when you see how far you’ve already come.
If you have a medical condition, it is not only recommended, but vital to go talk to your doctor first. He or she will advise you what to do and how, or maybe point you to a local gym or special training program for seniors.
Also, keep in mind that if you haven’t exercised in a while, it won’t be easy to get into it, and it will require a big amount of willpower and patience. Incorporating a 10 minute warmup and a 10 minute cooldown before and after each session is a great way to reduce the strain on your heart. Always check in with your body, and whenever you start feeling unwell in any way, give it a rest. Also remember to increase your exercise load gradually, by not more than 5 – 10%.
Ready to do your first exercise? You can start by looking at the plans at ElderGym.com or healthline.com for recommended exercise plans. Find what makes you feel well and comfortable, and you’re good to go towards becoming healthier, and feeling better every day.