An active lifestyle can contribute significantly to the health and well-being of seniors. Regular exercise boosts energy, elevates mood, and improves memory and the immune system. It can help help ward off conditions like heart disease, diabetes and cancer and reduce the pain of chronic conditions such as arthritis. Regular exercise improves flexibility, balance and strength, helping seniors to stay healthier longer. While seniors should check with a physician before starting a new exercise regimen, here are some of the safest and most beneficial exercise activities that seniors can enjoy:
Flexibility is an important key for health, comfort and optimal functioning in everyday life as well as getting the most from other exercise activities. The back, shoulders and hamstrings (back of the legs) are some of the muscles that are most prone to tightening up as we age. Sitting on the floor and reaching toward the toes is a great stretch for all of these areas. Gentle toe touches, raising one arm at a time over the head side to side, pushing the chest outward with the arms back are excellent stretches. Clasp hands in front, turn palms out and raise arms slowly up and down to stretch the arms and shoulders.
Walking is a healthy activity for people of any age, but it holds special benefits for seniors. Walking pace can be adjusted to any fitness level, and walking outdoors — especially out in nature in nice weather — offers benefits to the mood. Breathing fresh air, absorbing vitamin D from the sun and experiencing the heightened feelings of well-being that come from being out in nature are all added benefits. If outdoor walking is not an option, even marching in place while watching TV can offer health benefits.
Everyone remembers basic calisthenics from gym class — squats, situps, pushups and jumping jacks are very basic exercises, but they can be a great way to get a senior’s heart pumping and blood flowing. Best of all, they can be done just about anywhere there’s a bit of open space.
Aerobic activity is another excellent way for seniors to stay fit, burn calories, lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure and maintain joint health. Group classes or exercise videos are a great way for seniors get started with aerobics, and they can adjust their impact level to fit their level of health. Beginners may start with just 5 minutes of aerobics a day and work up to 30 minutes three times per week.
If seniors have access to a pool, swimming is one of the best overall exercises they can participate in. They can swim laps or just paddle around with friends and enjoy the benefits of a low-impact, endurance-building exercise that’s very easy on the joints.