Did you know that exercise is one of the most important things you can do to protect your health as you age? According to the Center for Disease Control, exercise can reduce your risk of developing high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and colon cancer, and it can help you manage the symptoms of chronic conditions like arthritis and Parkinson’s disease by increasing stamina and strength.
Unfortunately, the majority of people over the age of 60 live sedentary lifestyles, with many spending 6-8 hours sitting each day. The good news is that it doesn’t take much to achieve the health benefits of regular exercise. You don’t have to hit the gym or do strenuous exercise for hours each week. In fact, you can greatly improve your health, strength, and stamina by doing just 30 minutes of gentle exercise on most days.
Why Exercise Is Vital for Senior Health
As people age, they tend to reduce the amount of physical activity they engage in, causing loss of muscle strength and cardiovascular stamina. They may also develop chronic conditions that prevent them from exercising the way they used to. But even if you have to change your routine, exercising is an important part of building and maintaining strength, flexibility, balance, and endurance. Exercise supports better health in your golden years by:
- Preventing heart disease and other illnesses
- Increasing balance and flexibility
- Supporting mood stability and promoting a positive outlook
- Supporting functional ability for daily routines
- Promoting healthy sleep
- Reducing your fall risk by improving balance and muscle strength
Start With These 6 Gentle Exercises For Seniors
You don’t have to join a class, buy special equipment, or even leave the house to benefit from exercise. There are plenty of things you can do in the comfort of your own home to improve your health. Talk to your doctor about developing the best exercise program for your current fitness level and health needs, and then consider these exercises to get you started:
Yoga combines gentle stretching and muscle toning to give you a low-impact workout that still builds strength and helps improve balance. If you haven’t exercised in a while, yoga and other similar exercise programs may be a good way to ease back into a regular routine.
Water aerobics is another excellent low-impact activity that will provide essential aerobic exercise to strengthen your heart while remaining easy on the joints. If you join a class, you also get to enjoy working out with other people, which can be a great way to make social connections and receive motivation.
Walking is probably the most popular exercise for seniors because it is so simple. It doesn’t require any equipment and it can be done anywhere. If you haven’t exercised in a while, start by walking inside your house. When you feel up to it, you can head outdoors for a walk through your neighborhood or ask a friend to meet you at the mall to walk a few laps indoors.
Gentle stretching helps you maintain full range of motion in your joints, which is important for retaining your ability to engage in routine daily activities. Yoga and tai chi are excellent ways to incorporate stretching into your exercise program, but you can also do simple stretching exercises to limber up important muscles groups such as your calves, hamstrings, quadriceps, shoulders, and arms.
Many people shy away from strength training because the idea of lifting weights makes them think of a bulky gym rat. But strength training is important for preventing muscle loss and maintaining your balance and stamina. Start with exercises like bicep curls, shoulder raises, squats, leg raises, and toe raises, adding weight gradually as you build strength.
If you have trouble with balance, you can still improve muscle strength by starting with simple exercises performed while sitting down. Strengthen your legs with toe taps, heel raises, and knee lifts, and tone your upper body with bicep curls, shoulder blade squeezes, shoulder and neck stretches, and arm raises. As you become stronger, you can add in light weights to improve strength.
As part of an overall commitment to a healthy lifestyle, exercise can help you stay active longer and reduce your risk of losing mobility. Whatever exercise program you choose, be sure to talk to your doctor, start slowly, and build up over time. Increasing the length of exercise sessions and adding too much too quickly are the most common reasons seniors experience injuries during exercise. Listen to your body, and when you feel tired, take a break. It’s also important to build rest days into your week so that your body has a chance to recover.