You know it’s important to exercise as you age, but are you paying attention to how you exercise? Most exercises and physical activity can be put into four different categories: endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility. However, many seniors don’t practice every category regularly and put their health at risk as a result. Many exercises will overlap some or all categories, but these exercises for seniors are important to practice regularly in order to protect your health.
Endurance (also called aerobic) exercise is anything that increases your breathing and heart rate. Aerobic exercise keeps your lungs, heart, and circulatory system healthy by moving blood through your body and clearing your veins. Building up your endurance can make it easier to perform everyday tasks and chores without becoming winded or needing to take a break.
Examples of endurance exercises for seniors include:
- Playing a sport like basketball, tennis, or soccer
Strength training builds up your muscles. When strengthening these muscles, you may feel a bit sore the next day. This is normal, so don’t let it discourage you from strength training in the future. However, you may need to take a day or two to rest your muscles or soak in a warm bath. You may experience less soreness if you stretch before strength training. Fitness experts recommend that you strengthen the muscles you use for everyday tasks, so focus on those muscle groups when you work out.
Strength training exercises for seniors include:
- Lifting weights
- Pushups against the wall
- Climbing stairs
Exercises to improve balance are crucial for seniors who are more prone to falls. Falls lead to nearly 10,000 deaths of older Americans every single year, and are the leading cause of death and injury in people 65 and older. Strengthening the muscles in your lower limbs and core can help you maintain your balance and prevent falls. If you need to, hold onto a chair or wall to help you balance until you build up these muscles.
Exercises to improve balance include:
- Standing on one foot for 30 seconds and alternating
- Walking heel-to-toe
- Tai chi
- Holding onto a chair and marching in place
Flexibility can also help prevent falls by keeping you limber and nimble. These exercises can increase your range of motion, circulation, and decrease inflammation. They can also help you with everyday tasks like getting dressed and doing chores around the house.
Flexibility exercises for seniors include:
- Slowly stretching one muscle group at a time
- Warm up. Walk for 5 minutes on the treadmill and do a full-body stretch before working out to help prevent sore muscles and injury.
- Listen to your body. If you feel abnormal pain (not muscle soreness), stop your exercise and see a doctor.
- Find a workout buddy. Working out with a partner can help you stay motivated, be social, and keep you safe in case you fall or become injured during your exercise routine.
- Check with your doctor first. Before beginning any lifestyle change like developing an exercise routine, check with your doctor about what exercises are recommended for your goals, body type, and overall health.
- See if you’re covered by SilverSneakers. SilverSneakers is a program that encourages Medicare beneficiaries to get to the gym and stay healthy. Many Medicare Advantage plans will cover these programs at gyms across the country. Access to SilverSneakers means you don’t have to workout in a meager hotel gym if you go on vacation. If your home city has a variety of gyms and classes offered at each one, you can do a spin class at one gym, meditative yoga at another, and swim at yet another–as long as these gyms are covered by your SilverSneakers benefit.