Exercises for Older Adults

Stay active as you age

You’re never too old to get moving! Exercising and physical activity should be a lifetime pursuit. For older adults who want to keep active as they age, the National Institutes of Health recommends four types of exercise:

Endurance

There are a wide variety of activities that you can participate in to work on your endurance. Take up biking, swimming, jogging, walking or even dancing! You can truly pick any activity that interests you, and that will increase your heart rate and breathing over an extended period of time. Endurance is something that you build up gradually, be careful you don’t overtax yourself, start small with as little as 5 minutes of activity at a time.

Balance

A real fear for many aging adults is that they will fall and injure themselves. Balance training is a great preventative measure, as it focuses on improving your center of gravity while you are moving.

A simple move to start with is the “heel-to-toe” walk. Begin by placing the heel of your left foot in front of the toes of your right so that they are touching. Take a step forward, bringing your right foot forward and step so that your left toes are now touching the back of your right heel.  Walk for about 20 steps performing this same movement while looking forward; focusing on one spot will help you to keep your balance.

Flexibility

Stretching exercises will help prevent the stiffness that is often associated with growing older. Working on your flexibility will make everyday activities like bending to tie your shoes or walking up stairs easier; helping you remain active and independent.

Before you start stretching, be sure to follow these safety tips:

  • Consult a medical provider to find out what stretches will benefit you most, and to make sure stretching is safe for you.
  • Always warm up prior to stretching
  • While mild discomfort is normal, stretching should never cause pain, especially joint pain. If you experience this, stop immediately and consult your doctor.
  • Stretch your muscles with slow, steady movements. You should never bounce into a stretch.

Strength

Strength training is a great way to build muscle; other perks include improved balance, mobility, coordination and an increased metabolism, which will help you keep your weight down and your blood sugar in check.

Activities that will improve your strength are easily done, and require minimal time and equipment. If you are interested in strengthening your thighs, hips and glutes then try squats. Use an armless chair as a spotter, and with feet slightly more than a shoulder-width apart slowly lower yourself until you are nearly sitting, then slowly stand back up.

To strengthen your upper body, consider wall push-ups. As the name indicates, these push-ups are performed against a wall, and do not require you to get down onto the ground. Simply find a solid, blank wall and position yourself a little more than an arm’s length away. With your body facing the wall, lean forward and place your hands shoulder-width apart at about shoulder height flat against the wall. Keep your back straight as you bed your elbows and lower your upper-body towards the wall, while keeping your feet planted. Pause, then slowly push yourself back to your starting position, with arms straight and elbows un-locked. This modified push-up exercise will improve arm, shoulder and chest strength.

Source: You’re Never Too Old: Keep Active as You Age; http://newsinhealth.nih.gov/issue/Dec2011/Feature2