Seven Ways to Stay Fit for Seniors
Seven Ways to Stay Fit for Seniors
As we age, working out and staying active is one of the best ways to maintain mobility and keep up a healthy lifestyle. According to the CDC, a third of men and half of women do not participate in any level of activity by the age of 75. As the body ages, there is a breakdown that occurs that can be seen in loss of balance, muscle mass, bone density and strength. What may have been typically simple activities in the past can become quite strenuous, including walking up and down stairs, house chores and walking the dog.
The benefits of exercise at any age are well studied and documented. Exercise can prolong health and combat some of the aforementioned issues with aging. With exercise can come an increase in mobility, flexibility, and balance. Those who exercise will also have an easier time maintaining their weight, can lower their blood pressure, and even improve or reduce the possibility of having painful, chronic diseases, which include heart disease and diabetes. According to a study by the Gerontological Society of America, seniors between 60-79 also showed signs of greater brain volume and activity with increased amounts of exercise. Exercise has also been shown in many studies to help ease depression, anxiety, seasonal affective disorder and other mental health-related diseases. The AARP states that just 30 minutes of physical activity 4-5 days a week can bring on these massive improvements, and even life expectancy may go up with just this small addition of physical activity.
Oftentimes it can be difficult to find a way to stay active that not only fits the ability level of each person, but is also challenging and fun to do. Getting started with any new activity, especially fitness-related, can also be intimidating, and it can be hard to know where to start. We’ve listed some of the best and most creative ways to stay fit as a senior. Before engaging in any of these activities, please consult your doctor beforehand to ensure they are approved for you.
There are many sports that seniors can participate in that can be a great way to both exercise and engage in friendship and community with others. One sport that is both a great way to get the heart rate going and is fun to play is tennis. Whether its singles or doubles, tennis can be a great way to meet others and play with a group of people. Tennis also only requires a racket, balls, and sneakers, and can be played at a private club, at a public park or even at a recreation center. There are also clubs for seniors to join if you don’t know anyone to play against.
Another sport that can be played for a workout is golf. Whether it’s nine or eighteen holes, golf can be a great way to get outside and get exercise that is less rigorous than a sport such as tennis. Golf can be played on your own or with others as well, which makes it relatively accessible for any age range or skill level. If you can’t carry your bag or walk long distances there are oftentimes push carts that are available to use so that you can still walk the golf course with ease. Most public courses also offer senior discounts, and there are golf leagues that you can join to get to know others who also enjoy this great, timeless sport.
Cycling is another great sport that seniors can take part in. Both outdoor, road cycling or indoor cycling on a stationary bike are excellent ways to participate in the sport. Cycling can be rigorous depending on where and how long you cycle and is relatively low impact and can be easier on the joints. If you are on the road or outdoor cycling, it can be dangerous as cars drive nearby. It’s always important to invest in the right gear, so make sure you’re using a good, reliable bike, helmet and reflective gear. Cycling can also be done in a group, which may be wise in case you get lost or injured. If you do cycle alone often, it may be a good idea to get a system that includes a GPS tracker, such as a phone or medical alert system. With these devices, you can always be sure to be found and get help easily in an emergency situation, even while road cycling.
Water sports and activities are one of the best ways to stay in shape and get exercise as a senior. Doing water related activities not only help elevate your heart rate and provide excellent aerobic workouts, but are low impact, easier on the joints and have a low risk of injury occurring. Water sports can also be done by all mobility and ability levels with some guidance and assistance. Some activities can include swimming, water walking, water aerobics classes and even underwater weights. It would be helpful to consider joining a gym that offers some guidance with some of these activities, and often they have resources or trainers if you need assistance in the water.
It may seem obvious, but walking is a great way to stay healthy and active. The Nation Initiative for the Care of the Elderly states that a healthy range of steps at any age is between 7,000 to 10,000 steps a day, which is equal to between 3.5 to 5 miles a day. The best way to track the number of steps a day is to use a device such as a pedometer. Pedometers and other devices can track your steps not only while you’re walking, but throughout the entirety of the day. Walking can be made easier or more difficult by changing the speed, distance, or elevation during the walk.
If you are more capable of handling a greater amount of rigorousness, hiking is an advanced version that is great for exercise and sightseeing. There are great phone apps or websites that show you areas that are great for walking or hiking, or you can stick to just your neighborhood, local track or indoor on the treadmill. It can also be helpful to get a walking buddy or even walk with a pet for some company and motivation. It may be helpful to invest in some good walking shoes with support to ensure that you have a pain-free experience and are less likely to fall. If you feel as though falling may be something you will experience, it may be wise to also invest in a medical alert device. Many of these devices have the option for fall detection as another layer of security in case you walk alone often. GPS tracking can be added as well, which can be a life saver (literally). If you’re not sure about the available options, we’ve ranked the best ones on the market for you to compare for yourself.
Yoga and Pilates
Yoga and Pilates can also be excellent ways of working out for seniors. When either are mentioned, people may often think that these workouts are “glorified stretching”. However, don’t count them out; yoga and Pilates can be very rigorous and require a great deal of strength flexibility and balance. The wonderful benefit of both of these, however, is that they can be tailored to your capability and skill level. No person starts out in either of these with perfect form or being able to achieve each pose or stretch, but the benefits that can be reaped from both of these workouts speak for themselves. These two can also help with mental strength, including learning how to focus, be still and manage stress. Yoga and Pilates can be done at a number of places, such as a local gym, a studio, or even by accessing videos online of guided exercises from instructors. If you have an injury, it is always important to alert the instructor beforehand if you are taking a class so that they can help or modify the exercise appropriately.
Chores may not seem like a way to get a workout in, but doing work around the house can be a good way to keep up activity levels. Besides the fact that home improvement, cleaning and upkeep will be accomplished, certain chores can very easily elevate one’s heart rate and provide some extra activity. One great way is by doing yard work. Working in a garden, weeding, hand mowing a lawn, or raking leaves are great ways to beautify the home while also getting some physical activity. Other chores like carrying groceries, scrubbing the floors or vacuuming can also help with getting your physical activity in for the day, even for just thirty minutes.
Any exercise is better than none at all, so the best way to get a workout of some kind in is to find something that you enjoy doing. Remember that if you are just starting out, it may be best to take it easy at first so as to not hurt or overexert yourself. Always speak with your doctor first about how much and what kind of exercise you can handle. It may also be beneficial to get some physical therapy or a trainer to help out with basic ways to increase the mobility, strength, and balance needed to have a healthier, more active lifestyle.