Being active is a very important part of our lives. We need to keep moving our bodies no matter what age we are. Our muscles, cardiovascular and neural system, bones and joints…everything in our bodies, the whole system is made to make every day’s activity as efficient as possible. But that system needs proper maintenance if we want it to run smoothly, and the best way to do this is through exercise. If it has been some time since you regularly exercised or you’re worried about doing anything too strenuous, today we have specially selected exercises for seniors.
Benefits of physical activity
There are numerous benefits of physical activity which affect not only our physical health, but they also improve our mental health, as well. Even though these benefits are present in all people, some benefits are more important in the senior population. One of the very important aspects is increasing bone density. The denser the bone, the stronger it is. In this way, physical activity prevents osteoporosis and improves the mobility of the joints. The website www.thegreenfields.org also lists further benefits such as disease prevention, especially diseases like heart disease and diabetes. Physical exercise also increases the secretion of toxins out of the body. Besides that, during exercise, our body releases endorphins which counteract stress hormones. So after doing these exercises for seniors, our mood should improve, our immune system gets healthier, and our stress lowers.
Two very important aspects of physical activity are flexibility and strength. We rarely think about it, but flexibility and strength affect every part of our daily activities. From grocery shopping and staircase climbing to house cleaning and playing with grandchildren. Our suggested exercises for seniors have an extremely positive and direct impact on strength and flexibility.
Light to moderate activity improves overall health and is an excellent way to improve cognitive activity. Also, besides the obvious health improvements, there is the pleasant side-effect of cutting down the cost of health care. This survey that included seniors from 65 to over 80-years-old showed:
“significantly lower health care utilization and expenditures and lower prevalence of most chronic conditions”. US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health
Exercises for seniors
Exercises for seniors do not actually differ greatly from exercises that teenagers, professional athletes, or any other part of the population do. Exercises suitable for seniors should follow the same rules. Proper posture, breathing techniques and proper execution and movement through the exercise are very important. But one thing is different, though. The choice of exercise is essential. This means the movement should not be too complex, especially in the beginning, and the intensity and volume of the exercises should be adjusted to the ability of the senior. This last rule is also applicable for the younger population, as levels of exercises are highly individual and may not be interchangeable among different abilities.
In order to feel the positive effects of exercising, we need to exercise 3 times per week or at least 2 times, if obligations don’t allow more.
Before beginning an exercise program, there are some things that everyone must do – the first thing is to talk with your health care professional, and tell them you want to start exercising (if they haven’t suggested that already). Be sure you have their approval, that you are healthy enough for regular exercise.
Walking is an exercise suitable for absolutely everyone. It is the number one choice of all exercises for seniors. Another positive about walking is that beside proper clothing and comfortable shoes, you don’t need anything special. No gyms, no special equipment or track sessions needed. Any park or forest could do, or you can do it in the middle of the city, although air may be heavy there and be careful if you have any breathing issue such as asthma.
The best way to get the most out of walking is to start a bit faster than normal walking speed. Then increase it gradually until you reach the speed that you maintain for at least 30 minutes. Once you have reached a duration of 30 minutes, your next goal is to increase the length of your walking. Walking affects the whole body, especially brisk walking.
Squats and squat-like exercises
Squats are basic exercises included in many training regimes. They are so widely used because they are not complex. The movement is fairly simple, but affects very important parts of the body – legs, gluts and back. Squats are often called the king of exercises. And they are the king of exercises for seniors as well. Even though squats may sound like too much for seniors, we are actually doing them all the time. Every time we sit and get up from a chair, we do a squat. Therefore, the best way to start with squats is with a chair. Just a plain chair. Try to avoid soft and deep armchairs and sofas you can sink into. Using a chair is a very good way to learn proper technique.
Start with just a few repetitions of sitting and getting up, just as much you as you feel comfortable with. Then do that in a couple of sets. After a week or two, try to slowly increase the number of repetitions in sets. Squats target the largest muscles in the body – legs, bottom, and lower back, and therefore are an excellent way to achieve a lot with a little effort.
First of all, we don’t need to touch our toes at the start. The main benefit of this exercise is not going down, but going up. This exercise is making the back stronger. A strong back equals less back pain and better life quality. Speed is very important here. DO NOT do this fast. Fast exercising and swinging can be very dangerous. The easier way to do this is with feet a bit more than shoulder-width apart. From a standing position, slowly bend down in your hips, only as much as your back and muscles at the back of your legs allow. Keep the knees and back straight. From that position go slowly back to the starting position and repeat. Keeping a slow and steady speed low allows more control which makes exercising safer. Again, the number of repetitions should be just as many as your body allows. Do not push yourself, especially do not push yourself down towards the toes. You don’t need to touch them, especially not in the beginning.
Tai-chi is a martial art from China. Even though the full range of movement and training involves strenuous activity, the basic movements and concentration during training gives just enough physical activity to enjoy most of the benefits. Besides physical activity, Tai-chi improves the balance of the body, and provides excellent mental training as well.
For centuries people used yoga to improve every aspect of the human body. Yoga is often misinterpreted as just meditation. Meditation and mental concentration are important parts of yoga but our focus here is on the physical aspect. Yoga practicing involves going through a sequence of poses or asanas. Yoga is an excellent addition to our recommended exercises for seniors, as it has a great number of poses, from very light to very difficult and complex ones. Of course, we are interested in beginning with the light ones. A large number of poses gives you enough poses to start with, it does not get boring, and more often than not, there are courses adapted specially for seniors.
These exercises for seniors are ones that anyone can do, provided there are no health issues. Tai-chi and yoga are great types of exercises because they have a teacher, or trainer that will lead you through the exercises so you can fully focus on your thoughts and your body. And since these are done in groups, they’re a great way to spend active time with your friends or meet new and interesting people. Other exercises that we mentioned can be done at your home, outdoors, alone or in a group.
Physical exercises for seniors improve every aspect of our health, both mental and physical. They give us more energy, improve our mood as well as our cardiovascular, endocrine and immune systems. There is not a single side-effect or bad outcome from exercising as long as we keep proper form during exercise and do not push ourselves too much. And if we are looking to be even more healthy, we can add a BioPro-Plus to our regular regime. By doing so, we will further promote proper functioning of our immune system by naturally stimulating T-cell production and improve our overall quality of life.