Physical Activity for Seniors

Last Updated: 27.03.20

 

Physical activity is essential for healthy aging. It is a good practice to care for the health of your feet, for the health of your eyes, for the health of your heart, for your mental health and so on. But, without physical activity, you cannot do that properly. 

As our age increases, some things about our physical body start to decrease like our mobility, our strength, our endurance, our capacity to get over physical pain. An important factor that influences our overall health is our capacity to transform our everyday struggles into strengths. 

 

The problem

And one of the seniors’ struggles is their time. Sometimes seniors feel like they have to much time on their hands and they don’t have things to fill their time with, that is why sometimes they feel anxious and depressed. So what can they do with that spare time? The right answer is to get moving and improve physical and mental health.

In this article, we are going to talk about the struggles that come with exercising when you are a senior and things that you can do to improve your strength and flexibility, and also why it is important to be physically active as a senior and what the best exercises for you are.

 

 

General thoughts

Physical exercise can be a drag for many people, but for people over 65 years old, moving enough to be healthy is a must. But there are some differences when talking about seniors’ physical activity and younger adults’ physical activity. 

When we talk about seniors’ physical activity we talk about leisure time activities like taking a short walk, dancing, and gardening, but we also talk about household chores, planned exercises and sports.

Over 25 percent of adults that are past the age of 50 are inactive. It is well known by now that physical activity is beneficial and recommended for all adults, even if they have a chronic disease or not. Seniors who have chronic diseases tend to be more inactive. Physical inactivity can lead to a lower quality of life and many more health issues.

That is why people over 60 should pay attention to their physical activity levels to avoid problems that may worsen their age-related problems.

 

Physical activity benefits for seniors

Studies have concluded that compared to sedentary seniors, people over 65 who are engaged in physical activity are healthier and happier. They also have better heart health and a lower chance of developing type 2 diabetes. They have higher levels of muscle fitness and respiratory health.

They have better bone density and overall bone health than the ones who are inactive and, because of their muscle strength and mobility, they have a lower risk of falling or having accidents due to lack of balance. 

Regular physical activity comes with benefits regarding mental health, as well. It can give seniors more energy, improve their mood and lower the risks of developing depression and anxiety. Their cognitive function can be improved and, because of their developed physical strength, they can feel more independent and safe.

 

 

 

What are the limitations?

First of all, as a senior, before starting any physical activity program, you should talk to your physician and ask him/her what you can and cannot do because of your preexisting conditions. You should ask what the best way to start is, how you can change your diet for better results and what exercises can give you the most benefits.

While exercising, you should pay attention to some physical sensations that will tell you that you need to stop and go at a slower pace. Sensations like shortness of breath and chest pain give you the signal that you should stop immediately. Also, nausea and dizziness tell you the same thing.

If you experience these kinds of problems you should talk to your doctor and review your workout plan.

 

The aspects that can be improved

Being in good shape has various aspects that need to be considered. Balance, flexibility, strength, and endurance are all important aspects of great physical shape. If one of them is not in proper parameters, you can not say that you have an amazing physical shape. But what can you do to improve them?

Endurance is the measurement of your heart and lung health. This means that endurance exercises can improve your circulatory system, the way you breathe and the rhythm of your heart. To develop good endurance, you can engage in activities like walking, swimming, and brisk jogging. You can also play tennis if your health allows you to, or start dancing.

If you have a high level of flexibility, you can do all sorts of day-to-day moves without feeling pain or stiffness. You can start doing stretching exercises and even yoga. It is important to know the basics and, in the beginning, to have a personal trainer that can make sure that you do the exercises properly, without getting any injuries.

To prevent falls, you can work on your balance by walking heel-to-toe, enrolling in a tai chi class or standing on one foot at a time. This way you make sure that you will have enough stability when you want to go shopping or meeting friends.

One of the most important parts of having a good physical shape as a senior is developing muscle strength. You can get results by engaging in body-weight exercises that you can do anywhere, anytime. Also, you can start weightlifting or resistance band exercises. Either way, it is essential not to forget to strengthen your muscles.

 

How often should seniors engage in physical activity?

Even if you think that more means better, you shouldn’t exaggerate. Always listen to your body and always try to take into consideration what researchers say when it comes to how much is enough.

The WHO (World Health Organisation) has some recommendations for the amount of physical activity adults over 65 should get. These include a minimum of two and a half hours of moderate aerobic activity a week, which can be 30 minutes of walking 5 times a week, for example. 

Strength training should include all muscle groups and should be performed for at least two times a week and when it comes to balance and mobility, seniors should engage in this type of exercise at least three times a week. 

Another thing that you can do is consider how you can insert activities in your life that will make you move more, like walking your dog, parking your car further away from your destination, not taking an elevator but, instead, taking the stairs. You can also do some gardening, mow the lawn or exercise while watching the news or your favorite TV show.

A practice that you should never go without is warming up before every exercise session for at least ten minutes to avoid injuries and cool down for at least 10 minutes after. You can do some stretching exercises and you should always remember that when the weather is warmer, you need a longer time to cool down.

 

 

Final considerations

In the age of technology, people often forget how important it is to move. Because we have everything we need inside, like TVs, computers, home cinemas, and phones, we are more tempted to enter the virtual world than to be active. The downside of all these forms of relaxation is that we sit down and don’t move a lot.

Physical inactivity is a big problem for young adults and children as well, but when we are talking about seniors, we should consider that physical inactivity can deteriorate health at a rapid pace.

Because of the social inactivity that comes with age, because of their mental health, and because of isolation, seniors don’t have the chance to enjoy a lot of activities that involve movement and they have to make an effort to change that.

One of the most important things to consider before doing that is consulting your physician. He/she is the only one who can recommend the types of physical activity you need because they knows all the details about your health and physical condition. 

These types of activities will help you become happier and more independent, enhance your life expectancy and develop a better sense of well-being. It would be a shame for you not to spend your spare time doing something that can make such a big difference in your life.

 

 

Ioana Moldovan

Ioana is a lifelong learner with extensive work experience in the public health field. She is passionate about science and psychology and is constantly curious about how these can change people’s lives for the better. Her goal is to gather valuable information that can help her readers.

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