People in industrialised nations are shockingly sedentary, and people over the age of 65 are the most sedentary of all. Generally speaking, senior citizens tend to spend about ten hours daily either sitting or reclining. This is extremely unfortunate because lack of exercise can cause terrible health complications for people of all ages.
In this article, we will discuss the specific problems of a sedentary lifestyle for mature adults. We will also make recommendations and provide guidance to help you create the perfect everyday exercise routine after 65.
You should better understand answers to the following questions:
- What are the health benefits of exercise?
- What is the importance of exercise?
- Why is physical activity important for older adults?
- How much exercise is recommended for older adults?
Read on to learn more about exercise for seniors.
Why is exercise important for mature adults?
At any age, an inactive lifestyle can lead to a wide variety of health problems, such as:
- Lowered immune function
- Generally poor health
- Reduced bone density
- High blood pressure
- Digestive problems
- Type 2 diabetes
- Aches and pains
- Colon cancer
- Heart disease
Over the age of 65, maintaining an active lifestyle is even more important. Lack of exercise will only speed your decline as you age. Reduced strength, agility and sense of balance leads to falls and accidents. Inactivity promotes loss of bone density, which leads to broken bones.
An inactive lifestyle contributes tremendously to loss of ability to participate in enjoyable activities. Ultimately, inactivity can lead to loss of independence as you become less and less able to take care of your own daily needs. It’s really a simple matter of “Move it or lose it!”
The components of an effective exercise routine
A good exercise regimen for anyone consists of three components:
1. Stretching: Be sure to stretch before and after exercising to help warm up and cool down your muscles. This helps prevent injury. Additionally, stretching routines, yoga and Pilates type exercises help build fitness, flexibility and strength on their own. If you have problems with arthritis pain, a good stretching program can really help. Stretch for 15 minutes before and after working out and/or at the start and end of each day.
2. Aerobic exercise: Strengthening your heart and lungs helps support good health throughout your entire body. A strong cardiovascular system delivers oxygen to your muscles, organs and most especially your brain. Good circulation whisks waste away and keeps your veins and arteries clean and your blood pressure stable. Half an hour of cardiovascular exercise daily is a great idea.
3. Strength training: Use of light weights, your own body weight, resistance bands, exercise equipment and even the water in the pool as you swim or take part in water aerobics classes can help build your muscles, increase bone mass and improve your sense of balance. Two or three strength training sessions a week will reap maximum results.
Do you have to establish a formal workout routine?
A regular exercise routine is a good idea, but if that doesn’t appeal to you, participation in any sport or physical activity you enjoy will do the trick. Some examples include:
- Playing outdoors with your dog and/or your grandkids
- Participating in any sport you enjoy
- Mowing the lawn
- Power walking
- Water aerobics
- Playing tennis
You don’t have to do your half hour of cardio all at once. If it’s easier to break it down into three, ten-minute exercise sessions, that’s fine. The main thing is to get your heart pumping for half an hour a day most days of the week.
Set your sights on a little over two hours of cardiovascular activity weekly. This will help improve your circulation and strengthen your heart and lungs. Good circulation and strong lungs help keep your brain sharp!
Strength training is also essential. You don’t have to lift heavy weights if you don’t want to. You can get your strength and resistance workout by participating in weight bearing exercise using your own body weight.
Examples of weight bearing, resistance exercise include lunges, sit-ups, leg-raises and squats. Isometric exercises that involve creating resistance with your own strength can also be effective. Keep a set of dumbbells next to your easy chair and/or by your computer to get a light weight workout several times a day.
Stretching is also vital. Be sure to stretch before and after exercise to help prevent injury. If you have not exercised for a long time, you may wish to start with an all-stretching exercise program or a gentle yoga program to prepare your body for more challenging exercises.
What if you are really out of shape?
If you’ve been sedentary for a long time and you are out of shape or overweight, start slowly. Remember that something is 100% more than nothing. If you are not doing any exercise at all right now, adding a walk to the corner every day will make a big difference.
Add one small, easy change to your daily routine and perform it consistently for a week or two. Once you’ve mastered that, add something else. For example, if you are walking to the corner, stretch it out and walk around the block.
If you are doing 10 repetitions of 5 light dumbbell exercises daily, add a couple of repetitions and/or add a new type of exercise. Increase the weight you are using by a pound. Just be careful to make your increases in small increments to avoid injury and maintain energy and enthusiasm.
Be careful not to overdo if you are in very poor shape. Hurting or overtiring yourself will only slow your progress. You don’t have to start with cardiovascular or weight training. Stretching and yoga are great forms of exercise that anyone can do with no outlay for special equipment. Look for gentle yoga and stretching videos online to get started. If you are non-ambulatory, look for seated stretching and yoga.
Is exercise safe for seniors?
Properly chosen and correctly performed exercise is safe for anyone. It’s very important to discuss your exercise plans with your doctor or a physical therapist to be sure of designing a safe and effective program.
This is especially true if you have a chronic condition or an old injury to consider. These professionals can help you develop an adapted workout that suits your abilities.
You may be surprised to find that your chronic condition or old injury improves with consistent exercise. In fact, regular exercise is often prescribed for dealing with such wide-ranging conditions as:
- Neuro-cognitive dysfunction
- High cholesterol levels
- High blood pressure
When you improve your circulation and strengthen your muscles, your body will naturally begin healing itself. This may take a bit longer for older people than for young people, but the fact of the matter is moderate daily exercise brings a wealth of benefits to people of every age.
How can exercise heal an aging body?
Daily exercise has many benefits for people of all ages, none more so than older adults. It boosts your immune function to help you become better able to ward off illnesses and heal injuries. Approximately 80% of your immune system is housed in your gut. Regular exercise improves blood circulation and helps you maintain a healthy gut for a stronger immune system, better digestion and better elimination of waste.
If you have had heart trouble and/or hypertension, light-to-moderate daily exercise will help your heart heal while lowering your blood pressure. If you have not had these problems, exercise will keep your heart strong and your blood pressure stable.
Resistance and weight bearing exercise guards against bone loss and helps build new bone mass at any age. This is especially important for women after menopause, as they lose a whopping two-percent of bone mass annually. Sedentary older men also lose a significant amount of bone mass every year.
Exercise helps you retain or rebuild your equilibrium. A good sense of balance can help prevent falls. Stronger bones can help prevent fractures. A side effect of better balance is increased self-confidence.
Exercise can present social opportunities
Daily exercise extends your life and makes it more enjoyable. Exercise gets you out and about. It gives you the opportunity to see your community and meet and socialise with others. It keeps you strong, independent and able to do for yourself.
While you may start out small with just a few minutes of stretching or yoga daily, if you practice consistently and challenge yourself regularly by adding different types of exercise, more resistance, more weight and repetitions and so on, before you know it you will realise that you are stronger, more energetic and more flexible than before. Keep on gently adding challenge. You are sure to be amazed by the results.