Many seniors are unaware of the importance and benefits of remaining physically active as we age.
North Baltimore's Briar Hill Health Campus offers opportunities for area seniors to be physically active.
Benefits of Senior Exercise
Many seniors are unaware of the importance and benefits of remaining physically active as we age. The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) cites that only 30 percent of Americans who are 45-64 years of age exercise routinely. That number increases to a mere 32 percent for those 65 and older. The NCHS also reports that approximately 70 percent of women and men between the ages of 50 and 74 are overweight, and 30 percent of those are obese.
Exercise improves our ability to perform tasks of daily living, including maintaining independence and mobility. Exercise also improves mental health and is a deterrent to depression and anxiety. Furthermore, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia research indicates that regular exercise may enhance cognition and reduce mental decline.
Reducing fall risk and improving cognition are not the only benefits of exercise. Seniors can also reduce their risk of obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis, stroke, depression, colon cancer and premature death, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta.
Improving strength through exercise also increases bone density and is key to reducing the risk of injury due to falls. More than one third of adults over age 65 fall each year – a startling statistic. Among adults who are age 75 and older, those who fall are four to five times more likely to be admitted to a long-term care facility for at least 1 year. Seniors can reduce their risk of falling by increasing lower body strength and improving balance through regular physical activity.
When considering beginning an exercise program, think about the activities you enjoy. Exercising with a partner also improves the success rate of the commitment. Below are some examples of simple exercises that are great for most seniors. Be sure to consult your physician before beginning an exercise regimen.
Walking is an excellent form of exercise and doesn’t require a membership or equipment - simply lace up your shoes and get moving! Walking provides lower extremity weight bearing exercise while also improving your cardiovascular system. Start out slow; perhaps only 10 minutes per day for 3-4 days a week, steadily increasing until you reach a minimum of 30 minutes per day for 3-4 days a week.
Yoga and Tai Chi are both excellent low-impact exercise that improves flexibility, strength and balance. DVDs are readily available, and many YMCAs or local fitness centers offer Senior Yoga classes.
Swimming, water walking and water aerobics also serves as low-impact work-outs that enhance strength and flexibility while improving cardiovascular health.
Cycling is very easy on the joints since your body absorbs minimal shock from pedaling.
Adding gentle stretches to your routine will improve flexibility and range of motion. Recommended muscles to stretch include your neck, shoulders, upper arms, upper body, chest, back, ankles, leg, hips and calves.
Certain weight lifting exercises build muscle and improve overall health. The key is to start with lighter weights, or even do the moves with no weights, and increase the amount that you're lifting over time as you improve your strength. You'll want to do 30 minutes of strength training for each muscle group twice a week, taking at least one day off in between working the same group.
Gardening provides an enjoyable form of exercise. Digging in the dirt, watering plants and bending/squatting to pull weeds are all beneficial to your health.
Golfing helps increase flexibility, strength and range of motion, and builds muscles.
Whatever exercise you choose – remember to start slow, consider enlisting a partner and find something you enjoy!
This article is compliments of Briar Hill Health Campus, 419-957-8327. Information was obtained from “10 Low-Impact Exercises for Seniors” at health.howstuffworks.com.