The Importance of Exercise for Seniors

Physical activity is one of the most important things a senior citizen can do to help preserve their independence and health as they age. There are numerous health benefits for seniors associated with regular physical activity. These include better balance, fewer falls, improved cardiovascular health, and better bone, joint, and muscle health. Regular physical activity also can improve mood, reduce the risk of depression, and promote better sleep quality. Choosing to improve fitness is a smart decision offering real, measurable health benefits.

Senior Exercise Targets

Even if a senior has never been much for exercise and fitness, fitness is a journey most can start at any age and see physical improvements, according to Harvard Medical School. The 10-year MacArthur Study of Aging in America project found that even people who had never exercised before could improve their physical fitness in their 70s and 80s with regular exercise. However, seniors should discuss plans to change physical activity levels with their health care provider before starting a new fitness routine.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) advises seniors just beginning their fitness journey to start out gradually and work up to the recommended two hours and 30 minutes per week of moderate aerobic activity and twice-weekly sets of activities that work all major muscle groups. The best exercise routines for seniors will focus on four primary fitness targets. These are balance, flexibility, endurance, or aerobic exercise and strength training.

Each of these focus areas has a role in improving quality of life and overall fitness. Balance and strength training can translate into fewer falls and bone fractures. According to the CDC, falls are the top cause of death due to injury for seniors. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism revealed that mortality risk could increase for a decade in seniors after a broken bone. Endurance or aerobic exercise can help cardio health and improve lung capacity. Flexibility and strength training support mobility. All of these exercise-related health benefits help to promote independent living for seniors.

Types of Exercise

Swimming is an excellent choice for low-impact activities that offer excellent health returns over time. For people with osteoporosis or joint ailments, swimming is a great option for strengthening muscles and improving cardiovascular health. Brisk walking is another great option, with the advantage of being readily available to almost everybody. With just a pair of comfortable shoes, you can walk your way to better fitness. If physically able, shoot for 10,000 steps throughout the day. Research shows that regularly getting 10,000 steps a day can reduce the likelihood of death during the next ten years by 46 percent.

Yoga and Pilates promote flexibility, strength, balance, and motor control. Both are typically low-impact, meaning easy on the joints and ideal for seniors. Regular range of motion exercises can help preserve and also enhance flexibility and mobility. Bicycling is another low-impact excellent option, helping seniors toward better cardiovascular health while working the leg muscles.

The Gym is Great For Seniors

While there are plenty of strength training exercises that can be done at home, there’s a lot of advantages to using a gym, especially for beginners. Strength training equipment is often the safest option for frail seniors just beginning their fitness and strength training journey. Weight machines, for example, can be safer to start on as compared to other weight and strength training options because they also offer stability in positioning.

Gyms also offer a variety of exercise and workout programs, including fitness classes. That can be very helpful for beginners, helping to avoid exercise-related injuries and to develop effective, efficient work-out routines. Many gyms offer classes especially for seniors, specifically targeting their exercise needs. One fitness chain that offers senior-specific classes is Chuze Fitness, with gyms in Tucson, Albuquerque, Denver, San Diego, and Los Angeles.

Make It Social

Social interaction is also vital to senior health and well-being. Exercising with a friend, a group, or taking classes at a gym is a great way to combine two of the most important elements of long-term senior health. Working out with friends helps everyone involved to be healthier, stronger, and to enjoy a better day-to-day quality of life.