Exercise has many benefits for older adults. It helps you maintain your independence, function and mobility and makes it easier to do everyday tasks.
If you’re 65 years of age or over, be sure to include a mix of aerobic, balance, and muscle-strengthening exercises in your weekly routine. You can do home-based activities like gardening or housework, or more social activities like workout classes or walking with friends and family.
If you’re not doing much physical activity or are keen to try something new, here’s a list of exercises that are popular with older adults to help get you started.
Water, or aqua, aerobics is a low-impact water-based exercise. The buoyancy of the water supports your body and reduces any stress on your muscles and joints, making it a good option for people with injuries, arthritis, or joint pain.
Water aerobics fitness classes are run by trained instructors and incorporate aerobic endurance, resistance training, and strengthening exercises.
Water aerobics uses the natural resistance of water, along with kickboards and soft dumbbells, to improve muscle strength, bone density, flexibility, and balance. It also has an aerobic component, which can help reduce body weight, lower your risk of developing conditions such as obesity or diabetes, and improve your heart health. Being in cool water also stops you from overheating, which increases your endurance and allows you to exercise for longer.
Chair exercises are another low-impact activity that is gentle on joints and muscles. It is ideal for older people who cannot participate in standing exercises.It is also a great way to introduce exercise into your daily routine if you have not been active. Chair exercises can be done in class, which can be social, or at home. All you need is a sturdy chair and a tutorial.
Chair exercises use small movements, such as ankle circles, that target specific muscle groups. The exercises help improve blood circulation, and strengthen muscles and bones. They help reduce your risk of falling, and improve your range of motion, flexibility, and mobility. They may also help reduce any joint pain or stiffness.
It is best to start slowly and gradually increase intensity and repetitions. As you get stronger you can progress to standing exercises using the chair.
Walking is a free and easy way to be physically active. It does not require special equipment, can take place indoors or out, and it is something you can do on your own or with friends.
Walking is another low-impact activity that is easy on your joints and helps keep them moving, making it a good way to keep active and suitable for most people, including those with osteoarthritis. Walking is also less likely to result in injury than some other forms of exercise.
Walking is associated with a long list of health benefits. It can help you to reduce your body weight, strengthen your bones and muscles, improve your sleep and memory, lower your risk of Alzheimer’s disease, improve your heart health, and more.
Healthy older adults should aim to walk 7,000-10,000 steps a day. However, people that have difficulty walking may walk fewer steps a day and still gain some benefit.
Resistance band exercises
Resistance band workouts are a low-impact activity that can be performed at home or in a fitness class. Resistance bands are stretchy strips of rubber that come in different resistance strengths - light, medium, and heavy. Resistance band workouts can be performed standing, sitting, or a combination of both, making it suitable for people who are wheelchair-bound or who are unable to stand for long periods of time.
Resistance exercises are beneficial for improving muscle strength, bone density and for strengthening your core muscles which help improve your balance, flexibility, mobility, and posture. Resistance band exercises are useful for people who have suffered a stroke, have conditions such as multiple sclerosis or cerebral palsy, or are recovering from an injury. They may also help prevent or slow down sarcopenia, the loss of muscle mass and function associated with aging.
Yoga uses a variety of gentle poses and movements that focus on improving strength, balance, and flexibility, which are important as you age. Breathing techniques are also combined with movements to give you an all-over body and mental health boost. Yoga can be practiced in a class environment, which is recommended to learn the proper technique, or at home with guided tuition from an online tutorial or book. Older adults that have limited mobility or joint conditions can still enjoy the benefits of yoga by participating in adapted yoga practices such as chair and water yoga.
Regular yoga practice has been shown to help improve your balance, reduce your risk of falls, strengthen your muscles and bones, improve your flexibility, decrease your risk of heart disease and stroke, and help prevent and manage joint pain, such as the pain caused by conditions like arthritis. Including breathing and meditative techniques along with yoga poses can help reduce depression, stress and anxiety, and improve sleep quality.
Tai chi, also known as tai chi chuan, involves a series of graceful gentle movements and poses that flow into each other along with deep breathing and relaxation techniques. Tai chi is a popular activity with older people due to the low impact it has on joints and muscles making it an easy activity to participate in. Tai chi is often practiced in a group environment.
Tai chi has many physical and health benefits. Studies have shown that tai chi can strengthen leg muscles, improve flexibility in joints, improve balance and posture, and help reduce the risk of falls. It may also help manage the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis.
The deep breathing and meditative components of tai chi can be an effective tool to reduce and manage stress, reduce anxiety, improve your mood and emotions, improve focus and concentration, and improve your overall quality of life.
Weight training exercises
Weight training uses your own body weight or free weights, such as dumbbells and kettlebells, to build up muscle mass and strength. Weight training is important for older adults to help counteract the loss of muscle mass and function associated with aging. Weight training exercises can be done at home or in a fitness class. It is best to attend classes with an experienced trainer before starting a program at home.
The benefits of weight training for older adults are numerous. It helps improve balance and posture, supports better movement in your joints, and reduces the risk of injury or falls. Weight training can also aid in gaining back some functional strength and improve your mobility - making it easier to do everyday tasks like carrying groceries. Weight training may also help prevent and manage symptoms of osteoporosis.
Pilates is an all-over body workout focused on core strength, which includes the muscles around your abdomen, back, hips, and thighs. Pilates generally uses floor-based exercises, but may also incorporate equipment such as pilates balls, hand weights, foam rollers, and resistance bands or just your body weight. Pilates is usually conducted in a group class environment or one-on-one sessions if you require special attention.
Several studies into the benefits of Pilates have shown that it improves muscular strength, bone density, posture, flexibility, balance, coordination, and functionality. This in turn reduces the risk of falls, enhances joint mobility, and allows for ease of movement in everyday activities. Pilates has also been found to have a positive effect on mental health conditions - reducing symptoms of depression, anxiety, and feelings of fatigue by increasing levels of energy.
6 Exercise tips for older adults
- To avoid injury always do a quick warm-up or walk before starting any exercise and cool down with stretches after a workout. If you cannot walk or have mobility issues then do small movements that will loosen and warm up muscles such as shoulder shrugs, arm circles, or twists whilst seated
- Choose breathable and comfortable clothing to exercise in
- Keep hydrated during and after a workout
- Choose activities that are suitable for your fitness level and gradually build up intensity, time, and repetitions as you get fitter
- Include a variety of physical activities over the week, including aerobic, muscle strengthening, and balance exercises
- Consult with your healthcare professional before starting an exercise program if you suffer from health conditions or have not exercised in a while
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