Exercise for seniors and baby boomers has been hammered into us. And there are equipment and gadgets galore. So why not make it easy, fun… and even a game.
We’ve been told exercise is one of the most important measures we can take to improve our independence and health as we age. Both for ourselves and as part of the elderly health care for those we may be taking care of.
It’s also really, really important if you’ve been a caregiver like me.
I had to make sure Dad did enough exercise of the right kind – thankfully, he’s always enjoyed it. But I also need it for myself, as a baby boomer caregiver.
For the specific exercises, including those of Dad’s in his 90s, see our page on fun exercises for the elderly.
Why Exercise for Seniors ?
If you’re feeling burdened or overwhelmed in any way, or tend towards depression (which can happen to most of us sometime during life), exercise truly helps. For me, exercise is the one sure way to get the brain chemistry back in balance when I am battling with feeling down or sluggish.
We’ve probably all heard all of the reasons why we should exercise since we get it in the media and magazines on a regular basis. But here is a summary of some excellent reasons we need to exercise as we age, according to the Mayo Clinic, Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH):
Reasons To Exercise
Exercise for seniors…
- * Is good for your heart
* Stabilizes blood pressure
* Increases proper lung functioning
* Improves back pain
* Decreases joint pain and stiffness
* Is excellent for weight control
* Strengthens the immune system
* Helps manage diabetes and glucose levels
* Increases muscles strength
* Improves flexibility
* Helps with arthritis pain, including rheumatoid arthritis
* Helps maintain good balance
* Improves overall walking ability
* Reduces falls and injuries
* Strengthens bones and improves bone density
* Lifts your mood and helps with depression
* Calms and relaxes, and can ease anxiety
* Improves aging and sleep problems
* Lessens daytime drowsiness
* Improves restless leg syndrome (RLS) and leg cramps
* Can provide important social activity too
We may know all this. But do we do it? Many of us still resist – but why? Sometimes out of habit, sometimes for health reasons. Maybe we think we don’t have time. Or maybe we’re just a little lazy? Some us think exercise can be flat-out boring. But for older folks, exercise can also come in the form of many different elderly games.
As far as I’m concerned, first and foremost, it’s got to be fun. (Unless you’re having to do a rehabilitation routine, of course). I am one of those who resist exercise unless it is really appealing. Or necessary, like house work and yard work. And yes, those are included as forms of exercise. Plus, I do it in front of the TV, especially the Home and Garden channel.
I also have to bribe myself to exercise – give myself a special reward when I’m done. Plus it’s got to be easy – and exercise for seniors and boomers can be very easy, including while sitting and reclining.
How Much Exercise Is Enough?
According to the Centers For Disease Control (CDC), the average person 65 years or older, exercise for seniors should ideally include both:
- a) Aerobic (cardio) exercise to increase heart and lungs activity;
b) Plus strength training for the various muscle groups.
The major muscle groups include: arms, shoulders, chest, abdomen, back, hips, legs. Exercise for seniors should include using these muscles groups several times per week.
Here is a simple breakdown of the ideal amount of exercise for seniors:
- 2 ½ hours of moderate aerobic (cardio) exercise each week (including brisk walking) and muscle strengthening for all muscle groups a couple days a week; OR
- 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous aerobics and muscle strengthening for all muscle groups a couple days a week.
Any of this can be done in (at least) 10 minute segments throughout the day and week. It takes a good 10 minutes of any activity for it to really be effective. Stretching and joint exercises can also be included. And what is considered moderate exercise for seniors, may be vigorous for others. Like walking.
It depends on what shape your body is in (and we’re not all going to look like the picture here), what you are used to, and your overall health. Moderate exercise will simply make your heart beat faster and you will breathe harder.
With vigorous exercise like running, you will also break into a sweat. And if the mere idea of running makes you gasp in advance (like me), then just walk. As rapidly as possible. I guess they call this “power waking.” Walking alone will make me break into a sweat after awhile.
Sweating is healthy for you, of course, for your liver and for cleansing toxins out of your body. Just be sure to shower afterwards, or the toxins can be reabsorbed, one of my health professional friends has advised me. And as we age we should always consult our doctors or health professionals regarding exercise for seniors and middle-aged folks too, especially if we have health issues.
This all may seem like a tall order. At least to me.
Sometimes you have to first just get started in a small way, and then build it up. I know that if I jump into anything too fast and too much, I won’t keep it up.
Exercise for seniors is meant to be flexible and fun, even social. If you don’t know where to start, check out the following possibilities in your area:
- Senior center
Some local clinics and wellness centers offer exercise classes
YWCA or YMCA
Community ed center
Whatever you choose to do, be sure to always consult your medical professional first if you have any concerns. And pay attention to your own body. The most important thing is – to get moving – even in a small way! And consistently!
More on exercise for seniors and elderly:
Fun Exercises For The Elderly — Get specific exercises. At age 97, Dad is a champ with exercises for the elderly. We’re sharing what we do for many ability levels.
Tai Chi For Seniors — Tai Chi for seniors is based on an ancient Chinese tradition. But you may be surprised about how adaptable and beneficial it really is.
Yoga For Seniors — We have excellent ideas about yoga for seniors, even if you are chair or home bound (like we are). And if you’re an activities director, you can also learn to “teach” a mini yoga class yourself, the easy way.