Aging does not mean that you need to retire from your gym or workout sessions. But many older people tend to slow down and become more sedentary with age, which can be due to health problems, pain issues or worries about falling. A more sedentary lifestyle can also give rise to new health concerns.
That’s exactly why it’s important to stay fit and healthy, especially as you get older, and exercise plays an important role in this. Exercise is good for all, whether you are a child or a senior.
Regular exercise offers great benefits for seniors, including an extended lifespan, reduced risk of falls, better muscle health, improved bone density, better sleep, reduced risk of a stroke or heart attack, reduced risk of developing dementia, and increased confidence and independence.
So, with increasing age, you should give more importance to your exercise routine. But keep in mind, the aging body is not capable of bearing the burden of all types of exercise.
You need to choose the right exercise regimen to reap the benefits.
Here are some of the best exercises that are suitable for senior adults.
If you wish to stay healthy and mobile well into old age, start walking.
Walking is a perfect way to start exercising and most seniors can do it. This type of moderate-intensity exercise is highly beneficial.
Walking helps increase the heart rate, improve breathing, build endurance, stop loss of bone mass, strengthen muscles, improve blood circulation, reduce the risk of heart disease, improve sleep, boost mental power, and support joint health.
A 2014 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association reports that a moderate-intensity physical activity program like walking helps reduce major mobility disability over 2.6 years among older adults at risk for disability.
Another good part about walking is that it requires no special equipment, aside from a pair of comfortable walking shoes. Also, it can be done anywhere.
Swimming is another beneficial exercise for elderly people.
Swimming is a kind of therapeutic activity that benefits people physically as well as mentally. It helps you stay in shape and burn calories along with building endurance, strengthening muscles, and improving cardiovascular fitness. Swimming also helps reduce stress and strain on the body’s joints.
A 2012 study published in the Journal of Aging Research found that in older adults, regular swimming was related to better performance on the three executive functions (behavioral inhibition, working memory updating, and cognitive flexibility) but not on information processing speed.
A 2014 study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that swimming reduces the risk of falls in elderly people, as it helps develop strong and stable core muscles.
Yoga is highly beneficial for the aging body. The three main elements of yoga – poses (asanas), meditation (dhyana), and proper breathing (pranayama) – are highly beneficial for the body.
When done at a moderate speed for 15 to 20 minutes daily, it can help with weight loss, improve sleep quality, and delay the age-related effects of aging motor systems as well as pathological conditions.
In fact, studies have shown an array of benefits for issues specifically impacting the elderly.
A 2012 study published in the International Journal of Yoga reports that a modified chair-yoga program may be beneficial in improving mobility and reducing the fear of falling among the elderly, and it warrants additional research via randomized, controlled trials.
A 2017 study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society reports that chair yoga has a positive effect on pain and physical function in older adults with osteoarthritis.
A 2013 study published in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry found that yoga intervention appears to improve the sleep quality of elderly living in old-age homes.
Some yoga poses that are suitable for elderly people include shavasana, uttanapadasana, naukasana, pawanmuktasana, ardha shalbhasana, shalbhasana, bhujanasana, makrasana, anulom vilom pranayama, and bhramri pranayama.
Dancing benefits the elderly in many ways, both physically and mentally. Depending on your physical strength and ability, you can try different dance moves from moderate- to fast-paced.
Dancing regularly can help fight stress, anxiety, and depression, as well as improve your heart health.
A 2015 study published in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine reports that dance, regardless of its style, can significantly improve muscular strength, endurance, balance, and other aspects of functional fitness in older adults.
A 2017 study published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience shows that older people who routinely partake in physical exercise can reverse the signs of aging in the brain, and dancing has the most profound effect.
5. Tai Chi
Tai chi is a Chinese form of martial arts using slow, controlled, and low-impact movements that can be practiced easily by seniors. Even those with limited movement can practice tai chi.
Tai chi increases balance and strength, improves cardiovascular fitness and endurance, helps build muscle strength, and improves muscle flexibility. It also aids weight loss and slows the aging process.
A 2010 study published in the American Journal of Chinese Medicine suggests that participation in tai chi may improve the body balance of elderly people, However, researchers noted that more information is needed to determine the extent to which tai chi is more effective than other methods.
Later, a 2014 study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society reported that tai chi training may be a safe and effective therapy to help improve physical function and dual-task walking in very old adults living in supportive housing facilities.
Also, a 2016 study published in the International Journal of Gerontology reports that tai chi exercise has a significant protective effect on fall risk among older adults. Further studies are warranted to develop optimal tai chi training programs (training intensity, duration, frequency, etc.) for older adults.
Tai chi classes for seniors are often available at community centers.
Cycling is a physical activity that elderly people should try doing.
In fact, there is no age at which cycling stops being an option, and anyone who cycles regularly can expect to live longer. This low-impact activity keeps you fit and alert.
It’s good for the heart and the immune system, keeps weight under control, promotes good mental health, and builds strength and stamina. It is the best feel-good exercise that helps fight symptoms of depression, anxiety or high stress.
Riding a bicycle is also an environmentally friendly way to explore the world around you. Now that you’ve retired, take time to explore your local area and get the physical and mental benefits at the same time.