Growing older does not necessarily have to mean getting weaker. While yes, much like anything that ages, our bodies can lose some of the vitality we had in our youth, but it doesn’t have to mean that we will lose our strength and overall health, too.
Reaching a certain age does not preclude you from pursuing an active lifestyle. You just need a few adjustments and modifications to keep you from getting injured and getting the best out of your exercises.
The benefits of an active lifestyle as a senior
Did you know that part of the physical decline of seniors can be attributed to the lack of physical exercise? Muscles that are not used regularly could lose mass. And much like a neglected rubber band, joints and muscles that are not primed and exercised could turn brittle and lose flexibility.
Keeping active can help you prevent losing muscle mass. This means that you can do more things, keep most of your strength, and even move faster compared to people a few years your junior who lead a more sedentary lifestyle.
Exercise also helps prevent the loss of bone density. Bone density begins its decline when you hit your 40s, then rapidly begins to plummet by 50. This makes for brittle bones and a predisposition to injury in seniors. It also helps keep your joints working smoothly, or as smoothly as they can after years of use.
Your cardiovascular and respiratory health also greatly improves when you move more. Some light to moderate cardio exercises a few times a week will do your heart and lungs well.
Finally, exercise helps reduce excess body fat. Too much fat has been linked to cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. Leading a sedentary lifestyle slows down your metabolism and makes your body’s fat burning abilities sluggish. Exercise will do the opposite, it will speed up your metabolism and allow your body to burn excess calories and fat more efficiently.
Exercise and Fitness Tips for Seniors
Now that we have established the importance of movement and exercise, it is time to learn more about the ways and tips for exercising as a senior.
You can’t go wrong with cardio. Cardiovascular exercises get your heart rate up and get your blood pumping.
- Always start your exercises with a nice warm up. This will help ease your body into the workout and prevent any muscle related injuries.
- Exercise according to your fitness level. If you are just starting out, take it nice and slow and do not overdo it.
- Get your doctor’s consent first. Always let your GPs and other doctors who help you know what you are planning on doing. They might have some advice for you to help you exercise safely.
Examples of Cardio Exercises
You can take a nice and easy walk around your neighborhood. Or if you are up to it and know that your body can handle it, you can upgrade to brisk walking. Both are low intensity exercises that will get your heart rate up and your muscles moving. It is also a good group exercise to do with your friends or your family.
Whether you use a stationary bike or an actual bike, cycling is one of the best aerobic exercises to do that does not take a heavy toll on your joints. Just make sure that if you go biking around your neighborhood that you are always vigilant and aware of your surroundings. And always wear protective gear.
Another great cardio exercise is swimming. It is very easy on your joints, provides resistance to your muscles thereby engaging them, and works your entire body from your head to your toes. This is especially great if you suffer from arthritis or osteoporosis.
Strength training involves using weights, either barbells or dumbbells or your own body weight to provide resistance and build your muscle strength.
- If you are new to strength training, it is safest to get a trainer.
- Always start with the lightest weight that will still provide you with enough resistance for your muscles to get a workout.
- Always focus on your form. The wrong form could cause serious injuries.
- Stop at the first sign of pain.
Examples of Strength Training Exercises
Push-ups, pull-ups, squats, planks — these exercises use your body as your “weights.” These are great for strengthening your muscles and improving your balance. And the best part is, you don’t have to purchase weights to be able to do calisthenics.
Weight training involves barbells, kettlebells, dumbbells, and all other types of weights you see in the gym. Weight training allows you to gradually increase your load as you get stronger. It also allows you to target certain muscle groups with certain exercises: bicep curls for your biceps, lat pull downs for your back muscles, shrugs for your shoulders, etc.
Keep in mind
In order to be able to keep your active lifestyle, you need to fuel your body properly. Eat the right kinds of food, take proper vitamins, and take your medications, if you have any. Your body will serve you well if you treat it well.