As we age, we may not be as fast or strong as we were when we were young, but that doesn’t mean that seniors aren’t active! Studies show that active seniors feel better and enjoy longer lives. Hobbies and activities keep our senior loved ones connected to life and to the community, which helps to keep them healthy and happy. It’s never too late to get moving and to enjoy an active lifestyle! Below are some of the many benefits of fitness for seniors!
Why should we exercise?
Many seniors think that they can’t exercise, or that they are slowing down and unable to perform many activities. Exercise is even more important to seniors. Exercise and an active life boosts your energy, protects your heart, and can help to treat or prevent illness. Staying strong helps you maintain your independence and manage pain. The benefits of activity can even be seen in your mood, memory, and outlook.
Recent studies have shown that physical activity is the most important factor for longevity and quality of life – exercise can actually help you live longer! Even if you begin exercise for the first time as a senior, you can still experience the benefits of longevity and better health.
Exercise and activity improve your strength and flexibility, correct your posture, and enhance your balance and flexibility. These are important preventive steps to reducing the risk of falling. Improving strength and training your muscles also alleviates chronic symptoms from pain and conditions like arthritis.
Exercise boosts the metabolism and fights bone and muscle loss, while also improving digestion and lowering blood pressure. Increased calorie use from exercise also makes it easier to manage your weight. Illness and chronic disease can be prevented or minimized by regular exercise. An active lifestyle can treat, reverse or prevent a variety of conditions like obesity, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, and certain cancers.
Exercise also provides a variety of mental and psychological benefits. Regular exercise boosts your mood and improves your self-confidence. Endorphins are released during exercise and help to treat depression and anxiety. A consistent exercise regime also contributes to better sleep, allowing you to fall asleep more quickly, enjoy deeper sleep, and wake feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.
There is no better way to take care of your brain than to exercise! That’s right – while Sudoku and other mental activities are great ways to keep your brain active, exercise increases blood flow to the brain better than any other activity. Staying active is a great way to improve multitasking and creativity and prevent the loss of memory. It can also stave off dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Many will say, “But I’m too OLD too exercise. And I don’t like to exercise. How do I start exercise – what if I fall down?” There is always a way to include exercise and activity in your life. Start simply – begin with something as simple as gardening and walking around your assisted living community. Work your way up to more challenging exercise and stretching. And don’t be afraid to ask others for help – a partner can help you stay safe, get motivated and stick with your routine.
It’s important to enjoy your routine, or you won’t do it. Find ways to incorporate what you love into an exercise plan! Try some of these:
- Leave the golf cart behind and walk the course
- Go to the mall for walking and window shopping
- Ask a friend to go for a walk with you
- Listen to music or audio books while you exercise
- Play a competitive sport with a friend, like tennis
- Practice wildlife photography while hiking
- Try a new activity like Yoga and meet new friends
- Use the treadmill while you watch the news
- Play with a neighbor or a friend’s dog
- Exercise to change your mood when you’re stressed
Make a plan and you’ll have an easier time keeping a consistent fitness regime. Schedule activities in order to balance your fitness and get the most from your exercise. Focus on a wide variety of activities for the greatest benefit from your effort:
BALANCE TRAINING: Improve your balance to perform daily activities and reduce your risk of falling.
CARDIO: Sustained activity works your heart, increasing your energy and mental sharpness. It also helps you to maintain a healthy weight and improves endurance.
STRENGTH TRAINING: Strength not only maintains your ability to perform daily activities but also improves balance and strengthens bones.
FLEXIBILITY: A flexible body allows you freedom of motion and can reduce inflammation and pain. Flexibility also enhances balance and strength.
Plan a routine that includes activities like walking, weight lifting, swimming and yoga keeps so that you can stay motivated and interested. Find out what your assisted living community offers – try lots of activities or something new! Anything that keeps you moving.
Now that you have made your plan, what’s the next step? Here are some guidelines to get started safely:
Talk to your Doctor
Discuss your plan with your doctor to make sure your it is realistic and doesn’t interfere with any conditions or problems you may be experiencing. You should also ask if there are any activities you should avoid.
Prepare your Plan
Ensure that your exercise plan fits into your senior care community schedule and current health regime, and be certain that if your assisted living community administers your medications or meals at specific times that your workouts aren’t planned for the same time.
Listen to Your Body
Listening to your body is essential – exercise may be a challenge, but it shouldn’t make you feel worse. If you feel dizzy or have trouble breathing, if you experience chest pain or pressure, feel pain or break out in a cold sweat, stop immediately and contact your doctor. If your joints are red, tender to the touch, or swollen, take a day off to visit your doctor first. If you find that exercise is consistently painful or leaves you sore, talk to a trainer or physical therapist about your routine – you may need to change your exercise or do a little less.
Always start with a fairly easy exercise program and challenge yourself gradually and steadily to meet your goals. You might start with two very short 5-10 minute workouts, working up to a longer daily workout. Or you can start with a class only once or twice a week. If you are disabled or feel intimidated by exercise, start in your chair and slowly build up the confidence to do more.
Preparation and Recovery
Prevent injuries by performing a warm-up before every workout, and always have water nearby. Cool down is important, too, and should include stretching and breathing exercises that prevent injury and soreness.
Live in the Moment
Focus on how your movement makes you feel when you exercise and connect the mind with the body. Pay attention to how a muscle feels when it works, how you breathe, and the feeling of a stretch in your muscles. Focusing your efforts helps you to get better gains while also relieving stress and anxiety. This can also allow you to avoid accidents and injuries. Being mindful of your body can also help you to prevent problems before they become emergencies.
Commit to the Consistency
Consistently build the habit and the habit will keep you healthy! You don’t have to do the same activity every day (unless you want to), but include exercise into every day. Once you get used to it, you’ll probably even look forward to it!
You’re ready to get into the best shape of your life! Look around your assisted living community – many offer fitness programs and activities that will be perfect for you. Most of all, remember to 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!