Find Exercise That Is Enjoyable

Exercise for seniors can be fun, and healthful. Getting started, or urging your parents to commit, may be the most difficult hurdle to pass. Each individual will have to make careful choices on how, where, and what kind of exercise routine makes the most sense. Of course, there are several things to consider – where, when, and what? Start slowly and build. Don’t allow a full workout regimen on day one. Allow your body, and your muscles, to stretch. There will undoubtedly be some minor aches and pains. Let these muscles heal before increasing exercise activity. If something hurts, take a break. Make sure you wear loose fitting clothes, keep yourself hydrated and wear comfortable sneakers. If you experience chest pain or pressure, nausea, persistent sharp pain, excessive shortness of breath, or problems with your balance, check immediately with your doctor.

To stay healthy, active and independent include activities that enhance strength, endurance, balance and flexibility. Most of all, seek out activities you enjoy so you won’t view exercising as a chore. Seniors are more likely to make a commitment to good fitness if they like what they’re doing and, if at all possible, they’re doing it with people they enjoy being with. Clients with Home Care Partners have enjoyed our care staff participation in games of tennis; working in the garden; taking walks; leg lifts and arm exercises with 5 pound weights.

Aerobic exercise or cardiovascular conditioning is extremely beneficial for seniors. This can include using cardiovascular machines (e.g. treadmills, ellipticals, recumbent and upright stationary bikes, step machines), yoga and stretching classes, pilates, gardening, swimming, bicycling, walking, golf, bowling, tennis, dancing and/or martial arts like Tai Chi. This type of exercise allows the heart and lungs to work out at an elevated rate, supplies oxygen to the muscles, and improves the overall efficiency of the cardiovascular system. For seniors who are frail or have balance problems, swimming and water aerobics may be safer and less jarring to the body.

Some exercise physiologists place an emphasis on weight or resistance training needs. Such a program, of course, needs to be tailored to meet the medical concerns, overall physical condition and functional capacity of each individual. There is no reason to add bulk. Rather, simple weight exercises to maintain muscle strength, break a sweat during workouts, and perhaps burn off some calories. Resistance can take the form of free weights, universal machines, or stretching with tubing. Form is important in order to prevent injuries, so it is important to start out with someone who can teach you the proper mechanics. Begin with lighter and manageable weights and fewer repetitions, and increase over time. Focus on exercising all six major muscle groups.

Studies have shown that even older and frailer people can greatly enhance the quality of their life through exercise. One study by a state Department of Health and Senior Services found that those seniors who participated in an exercise program reported an overall improvement in their health and fewer sick days.

Many local YMCAs offer senior-focused fitness programs, which include swimming, cardio-vascular, stationary bike and weight lifting. By exercising and maintaining a proper diet, your doctor may be able to eliminate some medications, and seniors should notice increased energy and feel better mentally.

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