Exercise machines like treadmills, exercise bikes, and ellipticals allow you to perform aerobic workouts of varying intensity. Machines like these are some of the best exercise equipment for seniors. However, don't forget about strength training, which needs to be done using different equipment.
Exercise and the Aging Population
If you've reached the age of 50, aging is likely on your mind. Your fitness at this point in life will play a major role in how rapidly you start to feel the effects of aging. Fortunately, it doesn't matter if you've led a sedentary life most of your life — it's never too late to start reaping the benefits of exercise.
The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends all adults perform around 150 to 300 minutes of moderately intense exercise per week. Alternatively, 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous exercise is considered to be equivalent. This activity should be comprised of both aerobic exercise and muscle-strengthening activities.
There's nothing wrong with performing more exercise each week. In fact, there are additional health benefits associated with being more active.
However, as you get older, your ability to perform large amounts of exercise may be restricted due to issues with mobility or certain health conditions. Seniors, who are typically defined as the 65-and-over cohort, may not be able to perform as much exercise as other younger adults.
If you're a senior, the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends doing 150 minutes of exercise per week. Alternatively, if you have health problems or other issues that prevent you from completing this amount of exercise, just perform the amount of exercise you feel you're physically capable of doing.
Aerobic vs. Muscle-Strengthening Exercise Machines
Whether you're looking into buying exercise equipment to use at home or just trying to figure out which new machine to try at the gym, you're likely wondering which piece or kit can help you get the best full body workout. Popular exercise equipment for seniors and adults over 50 include treadmills, stationary bikes, rowing machines and ellipticals. Most of these exercise machines easily can help you get the 150-minute recommended amount of aerobic exercise, but some are more versatile than others.
For instance, the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans say that you can walk on a treadmill (walking at 2.5 to 4 miles per hour is considered moderate activity). Alternatively, you can cycle at a comfortable pace (10 miles per hour or less). Just 30 minutes on these machines every day can help you get the recommended minimum amount of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise.
Alternatively, rapid cycling, jogging and running are all considered to be forms of vigorous activity. If you prefer a more intense workout, vigorous exercise on these machines can also be accomplished through high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts, which can help counteract a variety of the negative changes that naturally occur as a part of growing older.
A September 2019 study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine also reported that HIIT workouts are capable of improving blood sugar and markers of cardiorespiratory and metabolic fitness. A March 2017 study in the journal Cell Metabolism even found that HIIT can help slow some of the negative effects of aging on a cellular level.
Despite their benefits, be aware that HIIT workouts typically focus on aerobic exercise; they don't usually incorporate a muscle-strengthening component. In fact, you can't usually perform muscle-strengthening activities on treadmills, ellipticals, stationary bikes, or most other popular exercise machines.
If the best exercise machine for seniors is a device that gives you a total body workout, you'll likely want to focus on the rowing machine. The rowing machine is a lower-impact exercise alternative, but, according to the American Council on Exercise, it targets various muscle groups and can provide you with a full-body, cardiovascular, muscle-building workout.
Muscle-Strengthening Tools and Exercise Machines
Changing up your exercise routine helps keep things interesting. If you're working out at the gym, muscle-strengthening activities can easily be performed using weight-lifting machines, resistance machines or cable machines. You can likely spot a dozen different exercise machines to choose from.
You might be under the impression that standing exercises are better muscle-strengthening exercises than seated ones. However, a June 2016 study in _Experimental Gerontology _reported that there's no difference in performing free-form muscle-strengthening exercises, like the ones you might do when standing at a cable machine, versus fixed-form muscle-strengthening exercises, which you do when seated or reclining. Both of these are beneficial forms of strength training.
If using a muscle-strengthening exercise machine isn't something you want to do every day, these exercises can also be performed using free weights or resistance tubing. Although this approach might seem very different from using weight-lifting or resistance machines, a January 2013 study in the Journal of Aging and Physical Activity reported that either of these approaches can be helpful muscle-strengthening exercises for seniors.
Ultimately, what's important is that you do some form of muscle-strengthening exercise regularly as this will help prevent age-related muscle loss and strength. Varying the types of muscle-strengthening exercises you do will provide the most benefits for your health.
Exercise's Importance and Your Health
As people start getting older, they experience a myriad of age-related changes. Although exercising for 150 minutes per week might seem like a hassle, it's important as it can help combat and manage health issues that are more likely to occur with age.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, aging leads to changes that affect your bones, muscles and joints. Muscle mass is lost, bones become less dense and joints become less flexible. You might still feel strong and fit around age 50, but the Cleveland Clinic says that this is the period when several of these changes may start presenting themselves.
Certain age-related changes may even start earlier than this. For example, Harvard Health Publishing says that hormonal changes cause men to start losing muscle mass and bone density once they reach age 40.
These issues are exacerbated, as they're usually accompanied by weight gain. Middle-aged Americans tend to put on 3 or 4 pounds each year. This metabolic change can be a natural part of aging, too. A September 2019 study in Nature Medicine reported that the way your body stores and removes fat changes over time. Essentially, this mechanism slows down, making it easier for you to put on weight as you age.
It's not possible to completely stop the changes to your bones, muscles, joints and hormones from occurring — they're a natural part of aging. Just about every older adult feels the effects of changes like these by the age of 75.
However, exercise is considered to be one of the best ways to prevent or at least slow the negative effects associated with aging. It's important to move in order to help keep bones and muscles strong and prevent excessive weight gain. Exercise can also be a boon to your health in terms of mobility, flexibility and ability to balance, which are important for various aspects of your everyday life.
- Nature Medicine: "Adipose Lipid Turnover and Long-Term Changes in Body Weight"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Exercise and Aging: Can You Walk Away From Father Time"
- Cleveland Clinic: "How Can You Avoid Muscle Loss as You Age?"
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Aging Changes in the Bones - Muscles - Joints"
- Cell Metabolism: "Enhanced Protein Translation Underlies Improved Metabolic and Physical Adaptations to Different Exercise Training Modes in Young and Old Humans"
- British Journal of Sports Medicine: "Short and Sporadic Bouts in the 2018 US Physical Activity Guidelines: Is High Intensity Incidental Physical Activity the New HIIT?"
- Health.gov: "Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans"
- Experimental Gerontology: "Functional Strength Training: Seated Machine vs Standing Cable Training to Improve Physical Function in Elderly"
- American Council on Exercise: "Reap the Benefits of Rowing With 3 Fast and Efficient Workouts"
- Journal of Aging and Physical Activity: "Traditional Versus Functional Strength Training: Effects on Muscle Strength and Power in the Elderly"