Seniors’ Benefits from Exercise
Although we gain more time after retirement, exercise may still be sacrificed to other activities in our busy lives. According to the American Medical Association (AMA), about 80% of American adults and adolescents are not active enough. This is something we should all try to correct.
The benefits of regular exercise can’t be overstated. A proper exercise program can lower the risk of:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- Some forms of cancer
Additionally, regular exercise improves bone health and the ability to sleep and minimizes weight gain. Properly exercised muscles improve physical function and reduce the risk of falling.
Healthy Exercise Guidelines for Seniors
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), all adults who are able to exercise should get a minimum of 2.5 hours to 5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise or 1.25 hours to 2.5 hours of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise each week. An equivalent amount of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise will also work.
Weekly exercise programs should include at least two sessions of muscle-strengthening exercises. Additionally, older adults should incorporate balance training and stretching into their exercise programs. Combining aerobic, muscle-strengthening, and balance exercises will help seniors reduce the risk of falling. Physically active adults are better able to engage in daily living activities.
Aerobic exercise involves moving large muscles, such as the legs and arms, for sustained periods of time and improves cardiorespiratory fitness. Examples of aerobic exercise are swimming, cycling, running, jogging, and walking at a brisk pace. If you can’t do these exercises outside near your home, you can look into gyms or recreation centers in your area. Many gyms and recreation centers offer discounts for seniors.
Muscle-strengthening exercises, such as weightlifting or resistance training, can be done at home or in a gym or rec center. These exercises can involve resistance bands, dumbbells, barbells, or exercise machines. Be sure to start with lighter weights and progress cautiously to heavier weights. Consulting a personal trainer can get you started on the right path.
Doing proper balance exercises should improve your ability to resist forces from outside or within your body that could cause you to fall, whether you are stationary or walking. Doing lunges and practicing yoga can help improve your balance. Yoga is an excellent multi-component physical activity.
Engaging in group exercise is a great way to socialize with others. Socializing reduces the feeling of isolation and the risk depression. Sometimes having a scheduled activity is the best way to get off the couch and out the door. Group exercise activities include dancing, walking, and cycling. Participating in classes for activities, such as yoga, spin cycling, and aerobics are also great options.
You’re never too old to start exercising. And you can start feeling the benefits of exercise as soon as you start. Before you begin an exercise program, talk with your doctor about your fitness level and recommended exercises. Even if you have a chronic condition, you should be as physically active as possible.
Even if you don’t have easy access to exercise equipment, you can stay physically active by engaging in light- and moderate-intensity activities such as these:
- Walking around your neighborhood
- Doing laps on the stairs in your house; if you have stairs
- Household activities, such as vacuuming, mopping, dusting, and gardening
Any level of activity is better than being sedentary. Talk with your doctor today about starting an exercise program that is right for you.
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