Participating in a balanced fitness program contributes to your well-being at every age, and regular exercise is vital for older adults. Regular exercise can help control your blood pressure, body weight and cholesterol levels. It reduces your risk of hardened arteries, heart attack and stroke. It also strengthens your muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones to help fight osteoporosis and lower your risk of falling or other injury. Keeping your body strong and limber can help you maintain your independence as you age. It allows you to continue the kinds of activities you’ve enjoyed your entire life.
If you haven’t been physically active for a while, start slowly. Gradually build your endurance, strength, balance and flexibility. Walking for just five or 10 minutes at a time on several days each week is a great way to begin. Once you can walk for 30 minutes at a time, you’ve built a solid foundation and are ready to add more challenging activities to your routine. Starting a basic strength routine while you begin your aerobic routine will help you build the strength you need to support your aerobic workouts.
Always talk to your doctor before beginning a new exercise regimen. They can help you create a workout plan that suits your specific needs and goals.
What type of exercise? Any activity that increases your heart rate helps build aerobic endurance. It doesn’t take long to see significant changes. After just six weeks of consistent exercise, you should feel noticeably more comfortable while working out and going about your day-to-day activities.
The best aerobic activities for older adults to begin with are low-impact exercises, such as walking, cycling, swimming and water aerobics. Other options include tai chi, line dancing, square dancing and ballroom dancing.
If you’re aged 65 or older, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week — or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity.
Even small changes to your overall muscle strength can have a huge impact on your life. Carrying groceries, climbing stairs, and getting up out of a chair all require muscle strength. If you’re 65 or older, the CDC recommends participating in strength-training workouts at least twice a week.
Start by using small weights, such as 1- and 2-pound dumbbells. Try to complete 10 to 15 repetitions of a variety of weightlifting exercises, such as bicep curls, tricep extensions and chest presses. You can also use your own body weight to provide resistance while completing activities such as lunges, squats and modified pushups. Complete a variety of activities to strengthen all of your major muscle groups, including your legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms.
For example, try this modified pushup to strengthen your chest, upper back and shoulders:
1. Stand facing a wall, with your toes 12 to 18 inches away from it.
2. Lean forward slightly and place your palms flat on the wall at shoulder height.
3. Slowly bend your elbows to lower your body toward the wall until your nose nearly touches it, or get as close as you can without straining.
4. Then slowly straighten your elbows and push back to your starting position. Repeat this exercise 10 times.
Many community centers and senior centers have strength classes geared at meeting the needs of older adults. For more information on where you can go to learn about exercise classes in your area, call Butler County Department on Aging at 316-775-0500.