Dedicating 30 minutes every day to physical activity is important for people of all ages. It helps maintain an ideal weight, and has additional benefits—boosting energy levels, reducing risk of heart disease and an increasing strength and mobility.
For seniors, regular exercise can also relieve some of the daily aches and pains from chronic conditions like arthritis or osteoporosis, plus lower the chance of injury. Studies have shown that exercising improves quality of sleep and cognitive function.
Seniors are sometimes intimidated when starting an exercise program, especially if it’s been several years since they last took part in any regular physical activity. And while the benefits of exercise do outweigh the risks of living a sedentary lifestyle, over-exercising can also pose some dangers.
Knowing When Exercise is Doing More Harm than Good
Before starting a new senior fitness program, talk to your doctor to make sure you are aware of any limitations and what heart rate is safe for you. Learn how to monitor your heart rate. People with lung issues may wish to use an oxygen monitor, called a pulse oximeter, to measure oxygen levels.
Although you may be eager to get in shape, pushing too hard early on could do more harm than good. In fact, new research shows that overdoing high intensity exercise may increase the risk of heart attack or stroke, regardless of age.
When you begin working out, consider your current energy level, listen to your body and determine what over-exercising means to you. Do you feel overly tired and short of breath? Are your muscles sore and stiff for days after your workout? Do you feel nauseous or keep injuring yourself? These are all signs that you’re over-exercising, and it’s time to ease up on certain exercises to avoid any health issues.
Make sure you understand the movements and pace necessary in an exercise to avoid putting too much strain on an aging body.
Therapists will be able to modify exercises as well, so that you can continue to do the things you love! Most organized exercise programs have trained personnel available. Be sure to let them know what your restrictions are so that they can guide you through an exercise program safely.
5 Tips for Starting a Senior Exercise Program
Avoid the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle by finding a senior exercise program in your area. If it’s been a while since you hit the gym, don’t get discouraged if you can’t complete a full 30 minutes of exercise at first. Instead, break up workouts into less intense, 5-minute increments. A few other tips for getting active include:
Wear good, sturdy shoes that support your feet. Your feet are key to balance and control, and proper liners can act as shock absorbers to lessen impact on joints.
Stretch before and after a workout. Stretching helps warm your muscles up before exercising and cool them back down when you’re finished. Plus, stretching exercises loosen the joints, and lengthen muscles to help you avoid an injury.
Incorporate strength training exercises. Strength training exercises incorporate equipment such as weights, bands or machines that improve your overall muscle mass. When you’re stronger, you’re able to complete everyday tasks more easily such as climbing stairs or carrying bags of groceries into the house. Before beginning strength training, consider working with a trainer or therapist to be sure you are adding weights and repetitions safely.
Slow down with low impact exercises. Yoga, tai chi and swimming are a few exercises that can help you build strength, lower stress on joints and optimize breath control, at a more relaxed pace.
Participate in activities you enjoy. If you don’t like going to the gym, consider other ways to get exercise, such as gardening, dancing or bowling.
Hydrate! Replenish your body’s fluids following a workout by drinking plenty of water. You can also incorporate beverages that are enhanced with potassium and electrolytes for further hydration. You can also treat yourself to chocolate milk, which has been shown to be beneficial in helping muscles recover after a workout!
Allow proper time to recover. If your muscles are sore after exercising, give yourself a day or two to fully recover. Work a different muscle group and make sure to keep stretching regularly.
Get a good night’s sleep. Seniors need just as much sleep as any other age group, which means 7-8 hours a night. Sleep further helps your body recover and restores your energy levels.
At American Senior Communities, our New Energy Wellness program is designed with seniors’ unique fitness needs in mind. Our Health Promotion Coordinators supervise, assist and motivate you to keep your goals. To get started, find a convenient location near you.