Exercise for the Seniors

Exercise for the Seniors

Aging is an inevitable process none of us can avoid. In spite of the advances in medical science, we have yet to find an antidote to reverse aging. But the process of aging itself is not as scary as it sounds. The worst part of aging actually lies in the increased risk of diseases associated with it, namely:

  • increased blood pressure
  • increased body fat
  • progressive bone and muscle loss
  • reduced elasticity in connective tissue
  • thinning cartilage in knees and elbows
  • osteoporosis
  • slowed reflexes
  • lowered glucose tolerance
  • less elasticity in major blood vessels
  • diminished lung capacity

Now for the good news: one of the best things you can do to protect yourself from these and preserve a high quality of life is to exercise! Regular physical activity yields benefits to men and women of all ages. There is growing evidence that exercise has a positive influence on increasing healthy function and decreasing the impact of diseases common in the elderly. It can go a long way towards slowing and may even help to reverse aging. Other benefits of exercise for senior people are:

  • increase stamina and energy level
  • prolonged life
  • strengthened bones to fight osteoporosis
  • improved muscle tone, strength and endurance
  • decreased body fat
  • keep joints, tendons and ligaments more flexible, and promote easy, unrestricted movement
  • increased efficiency of the heart and lungs
  • decreased blood pressure, blood cholesterol and resting heart rate
  • increased balance and agility
  • improved digestion
  • improved self-image, sense of self-reliance, and independence
  • decreased stress and tension
  • improved sleep
  • an overall sense of well-being

A good senior exercise program is one that includes aerobics, muscular conditioning, and stretching exercise. Start with a light regime and work your way up slowly.

Aerobic exercises provide overall health benefits including fat loss, an increse in daily energy levels, and reduced health risks. Recommended aerobic for seniors are the ones that are easy on the joints, like brisk walking, stairs climbing, swimming, aqua aerobics, dancing and cycling. Exercise 3-5 times per week for 20-30 minutes per session at a low to moderate intensity. The duration and intensity could then be gradually increased.

Resistance exercises significantly help strengthen the bones and muscles of elders while improving functional fitness, i.e. the ability to perform everyday tasks and activities with greater ease, less strain and lowered chance of injury. Perform exercises that target the major muscles of the body, such as legs, chest, back and shoulders. They include: weight training with light dumbbells or weight machines; calisthenics/ bodyweight exercises; and other resistance exercises like rubber tubing.

Perform all exercises in a slow and controlled manner to ensure the targeted muscles perform the work. Perform the routine 3 days per week on non-consecutive days. Heavy resistance routines are not recommended for seniors. The key to safe and effective exercise for seniors is moderation.

Stretching exercises focus on minimizing stiffness, enhancing posture and helping gain confidence in balance and mobility, which reduces the risk of injury. Perform stretches for all of the major muscles, such as legs, chest, back and shoulders. It is recommended that these exercises be performed on a daily basis. Perform all stretching exercises in a slow, controlled manner ad hold the stretches for 10-20 seconds without bouncing. Always do stretches after the body has been warmed up for about 5 minutes, such as after a walk.

If ever there is an antidote to the decline associated with aging, it could well be exercise. If you used to be physically active, now is the good tie to get back in the habit. If you've never been active, take the first step now! You will never regret it!

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