Regular exercise can help older adults maintain their independence and also prevent many health issues as they age. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests two types of physical activity each week to improve and maintain health: aerobic and muscle-strengthening exercises. Experts recommend 30 minutes of moderate activity five days per week and muscle-strengthening activities two or more days a week which work all muscle groups. Only one-third of Americans ages 65 and over meet these requirements.
It can be intimidating to start a fitness program. First and foremost, talk to your primary physician about exercise and which type is appropriate for you. Start simply by finding activities which you enjoy such as walking, swimming, gardening, or dancing. Look for ways to include physical activity into your everyday routine. You do not need to belong to a gym or buy special clothes to become more active. Lacking motivation? It is not uncommon to find it difficult to commit to an exercise routine. Having a firm fitness goal in mind can help motivate you. Enlist a friend to walk with you. It is more likely you will succeed if you choose an exercise you enjoy.
To get all of the benefits of physical activity, try all four types of exercise: (1) endurance,
(2) strength, (3) balance, and (4) flexibility.
- Endurance: Gradually build up to 30 minutes of activity which makes you breathe hard at least five days a week or more. You do not have to be active for 30 minutes all at once. You can break it up into parts. Try to be physically active throughout your day and avoid sitting for long periods of time. Endurance activities build stamina or staying power.
- Strength: Strong muscles can help with balance and fall prevention. You are less likely to fall if your leg and hip muscles are strong. Strength or resistance exercises keep
- Muscles strong and with strong muscles, you can lift your grandchildren and get up from a chair by yourself.
- Balance: Choose activities which help your overall balance. Try standing on one foot and then the other. If you need support, grab onto something sturdy and work your way up to doing the exercises without support. Try to get up from a chair without using your hands or arms. Gentle or Chair Yoga is an excellent way to improve your balance. A good sense of balance will assist with fall prevention and steadiness. If you feel wobbly and unsteady have someone stand nearby to assist you.
- Flexibility: Stretching your muscles can improve flexibility and your range of motion. Stretching allows your body to move freely and bend easier or even turn your head farther. Know your limits and only stretch when your muscles are warm. Do not stretch until it hurts! Perform each exercise slowly and smoothly about three to five times each.
Safety First! Start slowly and gradually build up the amount and duration of physical activity, especially if you have not been active in awhile. Drink plenty of fluids while exercising even if you do not feel thirsty unless your doctor has told you otherwise. Do not hold your breath during
strength training since it may cause a change in your blood pressure. Breathe out while lifting and in when you relax. Bend forward from the hips not the waist and try to keep your back straight.
There are many benefits to staying active and exercising: Prevent or delay some diseases like heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and certain types of cancer. Perk up your mood and reduce feelings of depression. Sleep better at night as well as reduce levels of stress and anxiety. Local fitness centers like the YMCA or a local hospital may be able to help locate a physical activity program which is suitable for you. The National Institute on Aging (NIA) has exercise examples, tracking worksheets, workout videos, and tips to help you stay motivated. Visit Go4Life® for information on how to begin an exercise plan and stick with