Exercises for Seniors

Henry is 70 years old. His job used to keep him somewhat active, but since he retired, he finds he spends more time sitting than moving. He wants to add physical activity to his daily routine, but he’s just not sure what he should do or even what kind of exercise he really wants to do.

Exercise is important, no matter what age a person is, but it can be especially important as we age. Keeping physically active helps seniors to improve balance and posture, which can lead to fewer falls. Physical activity also helps to maintain muscle mass, decrease pain, and improve symptoms associated with chronic diseases.

Before starting any exercise regimen, you should consult with your physician, especially if you have any underlying health conditions; however, you don’t have to run a marathon to reap the benefits of exercise. There are simple, low-impact exercises that can greatly improve your health and well-being. Here are some of the most common ways to incorporate physical activity into your daily routine and maintain fitness.

Walking. The best exercise you can do is to put one foot in front of the other. It is recommended that you get 10,000 steps each day, but even if that’s not possible due to chronic conditions, any amount of increased walking is better than none. Walking is low-impact, and when incorporated in social settings, such as taking a walk with a friend, it can improve both physical and mental health.

Swimming. One of the best exercises, swimming strengthens both muscles and the cardiovascular system in a low-impact way that puts very little stress on your joints. And if you don’t like to swim laps around a pool, you can stay in the shallow end and still get the benefits of swimming by participating in water aerobics. Many communities offer classes for seniors.

Yoga and Tai-chi. These exercises are also low impact, but they strengthen your muscles and help build bone density, as both yoga and tai-chi require you to support your body weight through the various postures and movements. There are different types of yoga and tai-chi, so find out which one is best for you. If standing is difficult for you, some yoga classes can be done seated.

Weight Training. It’s important to prevent muscle loss, but you don’t have to bench press weights at a gym to benefit from weight training. Often, some of the best weight training exercises can be done at home. It’s important to start small, though. Climbing stairs, single-leg stands, wall pushups, and chair squats are all simple exercises that build muscle, improve balance, and strengthen bones.

Cycling. This is another low-impact exercise that can strengthen muscles and improve cardiovascular health. Cycling can be done outdoors on bike trails or inside on a stationary bicycle. There are also elliptical pedal machines that fit under your desk or in front of a chair that allow you to exercise while working, reading, or watching tv.

Just as there are beneficial exercises for seniors, sometimes there are some exercises that seniors shouldn’t do. Leg presses and crunches can cause injury to your lumbar spine and discs, and unless you are already an experienced runner, it may be best to avoid running as it can cause impact injuries. There are also certain types of weightlifting exercises that are complicated and can cause injury if not done correctly.

If you’re not sure what kind of exercise may be best for you, it can be helpful to consult with a personal trainer who can help you find exercises you’ll love. Look for a personal trainer who is certified through the American Council on Exercise or other appropriate governing body—preferably one who has experience providing training to seniors.

These low-impact and simple exercises may be a helpful addition to your daily life, helping you stay physically active as you age. As attorneys who know long-term care planning, this is not medical advice, but a helpful reminder of easy ways to take care of yourself. So remember to start first by consulting with your physician, who can help you implement a program to reap all the wonderful benefits exercise can offer.

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