Senior Fitness is Worth the Effort
As we age, it becomes more important than ever to maintain the highest level of fitness possible. Unfortunately, and much to the frustration of many of us who have tried to remain fit over the years, our cumulative efforts may have produced sports- or exercise-related injuries that keep us from participating in the activities that once kept us fit.
Others may have spent years getting little exercise, working at sedentary jobs and sacking out in front of the TV for hours, and our old, poor habits have come back to bite us, in the form of a variety of health problems as we age.
In either case, it is possible to maintain a good level of fitness throughout our later years, and those who make the effort will reap the rewards in the form of a better quality of life. The trick is to find the exercises that work with the body we have now.
As seniors, we often need to make adjustments in the types of activities we use to reach our fitness goals. Here are some tips on how to stay strong through the years.
Get Out and Walk
You’ve heard it before, and it remains as true as ever: Walking is the easiest and best exercise for almost everyone. You don’t need any special equipment and you can do it nearly anywhere, so there is nothing but the weather to ever hold you back. And fortunately, the weather is seldom an obstacle, because there is always the mall.
If you live in a very rural area and there are no malls, invest in a treadmill for the days when the weather keeps you indoors. If you’re not already active, start with 10-minute sessions at a moderate pace, and build up gradually.
You can add short intervals of speed-walking for even more benefits once your fitness level has increased. Walking uphill or using walking poles are other ways to add intensity and make your walk more challenging. Consult your doctor before starting your walking program or increasing your intensity.
Swimming is one of the best all-around exercises you can do. It combines aerobic exercise for cardio-vascular fitness with resistance exercise for muscle strength, as the body must push against the resistance of the water. You never learned to swim? No big deal. You can take individual or group swimming lessons at your municipal pool or the YMCA to learn your strokes. Or see the next tip!
Try Water Aerobics
Pool-based exercise classes aimed at senior fitness can usually be found at the YMCA or at your local public pool. If you are fortunate enough to have a pool at your home or apartment complex, so much the better. Organize a class with friends and neighbors and hire a teacher to come in.
If you live in an area with ocean or lake access, try water hiking. With the water at waist level, walk a predetermined distance and back. Have a buddy join you for conversation, and make sure you let someone know where you are. Only do this in areas where there is a lifeguard.
Look to the East
Tai chi and yoga classes are great choices for senior fitness. Tai chi promotes flexibility, balance, and coordination, and also teaches breathing techniques that may help with respiratory problems. It is a weight-bearing exercise, so it helps prevent osteoporosis.
Yoga will help keep your body strong, supple, and relaxed, while reducing stress, teaching mindfulness, promoting balance, and relieving spinal compression. It is beneficial for seniors with arthritis, hypertension, and osteoporosis.
Choose a class for seniors if one is available, but if not, don’t worry. Even in mixed-ability classes, yoga instructors will encourage you to only do what is comfortable for your body, and will never push you to do anything that hurts.
Dance, Dance, Dance
If you have a partner, great. If not, join a class where you will meet new people. Ballroom dancing, salsa, and freestyle dancing feel like fun, but they are also a wonderful way to stay fit. Many senior community centers sponsor dances. Remember the days of the sock hop? In addition to the fitness benefits, dancing is great fun and a terrific way to make new friends.
Focus on Strength Training
It becomes more important than ever in the later years to maintain muscle strength. Not only does having strong, toned muscles make you feel more vigorous and energized, you need those muscles to protect your joints and bone density and avoid osteoporosis. And as a side benefit, you will look and feel younger.
Use free weights or resistance bands to build strong muscles. Work your upper body to keep from getting the hunched, round-shouldered look that we often see in older people. Work the thigh muscles—quads in front, hamstrings in back—to support the knees, a common source of joint distress.
If you have lost some of your mobility, there are still ways to maintain your muscle tone. There are exercises that you can perform sitting on a chair, using dumbbells, ankle weights, or resistance bands.
Fitness is important at any age. It’s never too late to exercise! Whatever your current level of conditioning, there is a fitness solution for you. Today is the first day of the rest of your life. Make it a full one, with fitness, fun, and friends.
About the Author
Jessica has been working for a car insurance company for over 35 years and helps her customers find affordable car insurance. She loves to be active in her older age and loves writing fitness articles for women.