There is no age limit on exercise. The American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of exercise three or four times a week for all ages. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons says exercise will reduce the impact of arthritis, osteoporosis and other bone and joint problems and will reduce medical expenses. Both groups stress exercise for older adults, whose body functions normally slow with age. Men older than 45, women older than 55 and anybody with any family background of heart problems or habits such as smoking or heavy drinking should get a physical and clearance from a doctor before beginning exercise and should follow his recommendations.
Five Areas of Exercise
Experts recommend exercises for five specific areas: flexibility, cardio, strength, balance and core. While those categories apply to exercise for all ages, they are especially important for those older than 55. Strength, flexibility and balance are most needed because muscles tend to get smaller and weaker with age, changes in connective tissues reduce flexibility and older people tend to lose sense of balance.
Flexibility training is basically light stretching, recommended before any aerobic or strength workout. Some stretches can be done even before you get out of bed. Lift your legs vertically while on your back, straight up first, then bend them against your chest. Roll over and do reverse leg lifts. Out of bed, do modified lunges: Step forward with one foot as far as possible to stretch the hamstring on the other leg. Stretch arm muscles by simple rotations and swings of the arms while standing.
Cardio exercise can be anything that gets the heart pumping. Walking is the best start for older adults, especially if they have not exercised regularly over the years. Jogging, bicycling, swimming and aerobics can be done by most basically healthy adults. These exercises also help reduce or control weight, which lowers strain on the heart. Low-impact exercises are best for those with joint problems, especially in knees.
Strength training will help reduce muscle loss and even have a positive effect on such things as diabetes, according to an article by Karlie Pouliot on FoxNews.com. Strength training should be done at least twice a week for 30 to 45 minutes at a time. Strength training does not mean just hitting the weight machines; it can be pushups or using rubber resistance bands. Using dumbbells for biceps curls and arm extensions and with lunges and squats will maintain or build muscle. Those capable of using barbells, curl bars and other weight devices may do so.
Balance training can be done anywhere, even while standing in a grocery checkout line. Balance on one foot at a time, hold for about 10 seconds, then switch to the other foot. Do this at home with your eyes closed. Stand on your tip toes and hold the pose for 10 seconds. Three or four minutes a day of these will improve balance.
Crunches are core or abdominal exercises and can be done by any age. Lie flat on your back and raise your head and shoulders using your stomach muscles. Hold the crunch for five seconds and concentrate on tightening your abdomen. For reverse leg curls, lie on your back and lift your knees to your chest and hold for five seconds. Core abdominal exercises are key to avoiding back problems by strengthening the frontal muscles, which help support the back.
Exercise has been shown to improve concentration, reduce stress and depression and have other beneficial mental effects. One study, published in the "Annals of Internal Medicine" and reported by the Be Fit Over Fifty Website, found that older men who exercised three times a week were less likely to develop Alzheimer's, a degenerative brain disorder. It also has been found to reduce chances of adult diabetes, to improve the functions of liver and pancreas and to improve memory as well as improve heart and lung strength.