Senior exercise routines can dramatically improve a senior's health, happiness and independence. More and more controlled studies are finding that adding regular, moderate exercise to a senior's life can reduce the risk of disease and improve many markers of health and happiness.
But seniors are not the same as twenty- and thirty-somethings. Exercise routines for seniors need to be carefully designed to include these seven key ingredients.
For many seniors, exercise either doesn't come naturally or in some cases it's just a distant memory. Exercise routines for seniors need to build in opportunities for the exerciser to be successful. It's essential to develop realistic fitness goals that can give a senior exerciser a sense of accomplishment and ability. Self-efficacy is like fuel for the fire of intrinsic motivation; you're more likely to do things you think you're good at.
By consistency we don't mean doing the same workout every time. Rather, fitness routines should include a variety of exercises on a consistent schedule. The more you can make exercise a regular part of a senior's routine, the easier it is to stick with a plan. Consistent exercise also makes for steady gains with less likelihood of overdoing it.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, heart disease remains the number one cause of death in the U.S. Regular cardiovascular exercise keeps hearts healthy, reduces risk of stroke, and improves circulation to the brain. For seniors who aren't already athletes, walking is a safe, effective cardiovascular exercise.
Muscular Strength and Endurance
You may wonder why a senior should bother building muscles. Bulking up isn't necessary, but keeping muscles strong is essential for healthy, independent aging. Unless they're actively practicing resistance training, seniors can count on losing about a half pound of lean muscle mass every year. And those are the muscles seniors need to open doors, carry groceries, and maintain mobility. Lean muscle tissue also helps the body maintain a healthy metabolism and insulin sensitivity.
One in three adults over the age of 65 fall each year, and many of those falls lead to serious injury or death (CDC Falls Among Older Adults). Strong muscles can help ensure a confident gait and stable stance, but specific balance training should also be part of every senior's exercise routine. Balance training can help offset declines in vision and other health issues that diminish balance in aging adults.
Keeping joints and muscles supple and flexible is essential to maintaining independence and mobility as seniors age. The ability to move a joint through its full range of motion without pain can mean the difference between being able to dress oneself or needing a caregiver. Simple stretching and dynamic mobility exercises can keep seniors functioning and free of pain well into their golden years. These four tips to improve stretching and flexibility are a good place to start.
Too many exercisers take an all or nothing approach to their fitness, when what they really need is consistent exercise that challenges them but also provides deliberately planned recovery periods. Managing recovery is especially important for seniors, whose bodies generally need a longer recovery interval than younger exercisers.
For your senior exercise routine, be sure to include all seven of these essential ingredients for a workout that is safe, healthy, and provides you with all the benefits of exercise.
(photo credit: lululemon athletica)