Staying in Shape as a Senior

Senior man swimming in pool smiling

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No matter how young or old you might be, there is no denying that participating in sports or exercise is a great way to maintain a healthy body and mind. Regularly taking exercise can do everything from keeping blood pressure under control to reducing the risk of heart disease, osteoporosis and various other illnesses and diseases. Exercise can be particularly useful for those of you who are in your senior years for those reasons, and because the more strong and limber older bodies are the lower the risk of falls, and the injuries sustained as a result.

If you, as a senior, take regular exercise, you will be able to do more of the things you love for longer, which surely makes it worthwhile? However, I understand it can be difficult to start an exercise regime when you are older, and you haven’t been active for a while, which is why I recommend starting small, perhaps by walking for 10 minutes a few times a week. Once you can walk for 30 minutes continuously, you should be fit enough to do some more challenging exercise like the activities suggested below.

Before you go any further, however, I would strongly suggest you make an appointment with your doctor to check that you are fit to exercise at the moment. They will be able to advise you on the kind of things that you can and can’t do better than anyone else.

Warm Up

Before you do anything else, you simply must warm up. Warming up before exercise is something that should take no more than 5 or 10 minutes, and it consists of gentle stretching of the muscles to get your body ready for the more intense movements it will soon be carrying out. It also gets the heart and lungs ready for action so that you’re less likely to stress your vital organs out when you get started with your chosen activity.

Aerobics

Find a fitness center that offers regular aerobics classes and sign up. Some of the people in your class will be much younger than you (unless you are able to find a seniors-only class) but you should not try to compete with them. Go at your own pace, starting slowly at first and building up as you get stronger to ensure you stay healthy without any injuries.

Aerobic activities that are low-impact are generally speaking better for senior citizens. So, think Tai Chi, swimming (particularly good), ballroom dancing, swimming or cycling.

Strength Training

As a senior, you might think that your strength training days are behind you, but they don’t have to be! Building and increasing muscle strength is something that seniors of both sexes should consider doing because the stronger your body is, the better you will be able to cope with the everyday challenges and illnesses that come with advancing age.

Of course, you don’t have to go all out Arnold Schwarzenegger to see results – even carrying your groceries from the local store will help you to increases muscle strength. If, however, you would like to take up weight training, start small. Use dumbbells weighing 1-2 pounds and complete 10-15 reps of simple exercises like chest presses and bicep curls. Once you are used to those, you can start to incrementally add more weight.

If you don’t want to take up a gym membership, you can increase your muscle strength using nothing more than your body. Bodyweight exercises like squat, lunges and press-ups will accomplish a lot more than you might think.

A Balancing Act

According to the CDC, 2.5 million seniors in the United States are treated for fall injuries. This is because, as we get older, we tend to lose our balance somewhat and, sadly, older people are not as able to recover from a fall as younger people. If you want to avoid the pain of fall injuries, why not try Yoga? Find a good Yoga class where seniors are welcome and where the instructor has experience of teaching older people and build up slowly, and you’ll soon see an increase in your core stability and balance.

Be Flexible

Seniors often find it much more difficult to stretch and reach those cans on the top shelf at the grocery store or to bend down and pick up a dropped item. This is because they have tight muscles that aren’t as active as they once were. You can counter this by stretching daily. Again, this is something Yoga can help with, but you could just try a few simple stretches like the ones you would do when warming up before a run, each day.

Take Long Walks

Of course, you do not have to do anything too challenging to improve your general fitness. If seriously regimented exercise isn’t really your thing, call up a friend and arrange a walk. Going for a long, leisurely walk in the country with good a good friend, where you can breathe in fresh air, move your body and socialize, is a great way to gently improve your fitness levels and have a great time. Just try to make it a long walk – you’ll see more benefit that way.

Cool Down

As a senior, cooling down after a workout is just as important as warming up before you get started. Gently stretching your body after exercise will help to prevent sore muscles and other aches and pains, and help to prevent injury. You should never skip your cool down exercises if you can help it!

As a senior, it is perfectly possible to achieve a high level of fitness for your age, in just half an hour a day. Doing so will make life much easier for you and help you to stay healthy for longer, but you must do a variety of activities and start off slowly if that is to be the case. If you’re worried about starting a new fitness regime, your doctor or a good personal trainer will be able to offer you the advice you need to get fit and healthy with confidence. Once you get started on your new fitness journey, you won’t regret it.

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