3 expert-approved exercises to stay healthy as you age

Exercise is one of the most beneficial things you can do for your body and mind. It can have a significant impact on balance, mobility, and strength. No matter how many candles there are on your cake, the importance of exercise only increases as you get older.

Regular exercise can also be the difference between relying on others for daily activities and remaining independent. In fact, his workout routine may need to be a little different than when he was younger. Learn safe and beneficial exercise for seniors from experts.

Is exercise safe for older adults?

A common misconception among older adults is that exercise is unsafe and should be avoided. This is not true and has a negative impact on older adults achieving and maintaining optimal health. Fitness is the key to healthy aging.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the unfortunate truth is that as you age, your risk for many diseases increases. Regular physical activity reduces the risk of the same diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and dementia.

When done correctly, physical activity is safe for older adults and necessary for a healthy lifestyle. The need for exercise in an aging population is strongly supported by his CDC, physical therapists, and personal trainers around the world.

Dr. Kevin Robinson, a physical therapist and professor of orthopedics and kinesiology, shared some general guidelines for older adults to exercise safely.

  • Focus on low-impact activities such as water exercise, recumbent stationary bikes, and ellipticals.
  • Join the SilverSneakers program, often offered at local health clubs. These are usually covered by insurance and are especially designed for seniors. One of the benefits of these programs is that you will make friends, which will help you stay involved.
  • Learn your limits by focusing on specific muscle groups like your glutes (butt), quadriceps (thighs), biceps, and abs.
  • Make stretching and balance exercises part of your regular exercise program.

Women in underwater exercise class lifting weights.

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Best exercises for seniors

The best exercise for you will depend on factors such as your current fitness level and any medical conditions that require a restricted or modified approach. It's never too late to start a good exercise program.

The CDC recommends the following weekly physical activity for adults age 65 and older:

  • At least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking, or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise, such as jogging, per week.
  • At least two days a week, do strength exercises such as weightlifting.
  • Do activities that improve your balance, such as balancing on one leg.

Here are some examples of what exercise habits look like for older people.

1. Moderate aerobic exercise

The CDC defines moderate aerobic exercise, also known as aerobic exercise, as a 5 or 6 on a scale of 1 (sitting still) to 10 (working hard). An activity that is light aerobic for one person may be moderate aerobic for another.

Walking is a common method of moderate aerobic exercise, especially popular among older adults. “Walking can be a great activity,” Robinson says. “However, many people with arthritis cannot tolerate long distance walking because the average ground reaction force through the knee is 1.2 to 1.5 times the person's body weight. Therefore, even activities that appear minimally impactful may be too large.”

Robinson recommends water exercise for patients with arthritis in their legs and feet. “This reduces the force on your knees by 50% to 75% compared to walking on land,” he says.

Other forms of moderate aerobic exercise include hiking, running errands or doing specific chores (like ripping leaves), some types of yoga, riding a bike, and using the elliptical.

2. Light strength training

Personal trainer and group exercise instructor Erin Stimac says functional movement is fundamental to maintaining independence, reducing injury risk and improving overall quality of life. . Erin recommends incorporating strength training that covers important functional movements.

  • Squat (sitting and standing): Squat exercise is essential for regular daily life and contributes to improving mobility and stability.
  • Hinge movement (bending at the waist): Essential for tasks such as picking up objects. Hinge exercises strengthen the lower back and promote flexibility.
  • Pushing (weight or objects): Pushing strengthens upper body strength and supports activities such as getting up from the ground and lifting objects.
  • Pull (towards the body): This is very important for strengthening the back muscles and maintaining posture and balance.
  • Transport: In life, we often need to transport things from one point to another. Reduced grip strength has been shown to be closely associated with mortality and is a more accurate predictor of early death risk than blood pressure.

Certain light strength training exercises recommended by the CDC that can incorporate functional movements include weight lifting, using resistance bands, yard work, bodyweight exercises such as pull-ups and push-ups, and various yoga positions.

3. Balance exercises

It is common for older people to have problems with their sense of balance. Good balance reduces the risk of falling.

“To improve your balance, you need to do balance exercises for short periods throughout the day, rather than just 10 to 15 minutes once a day,” Robinson says. He recommends the following balancing activities, which can usually be done safely at home.

  • Stand with both feet in front of the counter. Let go of the counter and see how well you can maintain balance without gripping the counter. Repeat this activity 3 to 5 times throughout the day until you have three 45-second periods. Once you have achieved this, move on to the next exercise.
  • Repeat the balance exercise above, but this time close your eyes.

Yoga is also a common form of exercise known for improving balance, according to the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Bearded man holding a surfboard in the water Bearded man holding a surfboard in the water

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Exercises that elderly people should avoid

Are there certain types of exercise that older adults should avoid completely? According to Stimac, the answer is generally no.

“Contrary to popular belief, older adults do not need to avoid certain movements,” Stimac says. “Fear of injury should not deter you from strength training. Instead of focusing on limitations, you should explore what movements are suitable for each individual.”

If you have an illness, condition, or injury that causes physical limitations, you should always follow your doctor's guidance, but you can always find ways to improve your fitness. It just needs correction and guidance.

Stimac says there is no one-size-fits-all approach and all older adults are entitled to a customized program that strengthens their strength and performance while considering their individual needs. “By embracing personalized planning and debunking myths, we help older adults live active and fulfilling lives,” she said.

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