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Aerobic Routines for Seniors

by 
author image Viola Horne
When not working in her family-owned food and bar business, Viola Horne can almost always be found with a cookbook in one hand and a whisk in the other. Horne never tires of entertaining family and friends with both comfort food and unusual delicacies such as garlic cheese smashed potatoes and banana bacon pancakes.
Aerobic Routines for Seniors
Aerobic Routines for Seniors Photo Credit: Rawpixel Ltd/iStock/GettyImages

Seniors who are physically active are more likely to "age successfully," according to a study published in British Journal of Sports Medicine in 2014. According to the researchers, successful aging means being free from chronic disease and cognitive impairment with little limitation to physical function and good mental health.

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Even previously inactive seniors can benefit significantly from taking up exercise in their later years, say the study researchers. Finding a routine that is fun and builds fitness can improve quality of life and increase life expectancy.

Get the Heart Rate Up

For seniors over the age of 60, aerobic routines should be safe yet strenuous enough to boost the heart rate into an aerobic zone, about 50 to 70 percent of maximum heart rate. According to the American Heart Association, the maximum heart rate for seniors ages 60 to 65 is about 160 beats per minute, while the maximum for seniors ages 65 to 70 is 155. For ages 70 and over, about 150 beats per minute is the maximum.

Another way to measure intensity is to try to talk while exercising. If you can comfortably carry on a conversation, you may not be exerting yourself enough. If you are gasping for breath, you are working too hard.

Read more: Dance Exercise for Seniors

Gradually Increase Time

Aerobic routines should be long enough to move you into an aerobic state without causing overt fatigue. Generally, an aerobic routine consisting of a warm up of about 10 minutes, coupled with an aerobic workout in the target heart rate zone lasting 20 to 60 minutes three to five days a week is sufficient to gain cardiovascular and other benefits.

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that people beginning an aerobic routine start with sessions lasting 12 to 15 minutes three times a week on non-consecutive days and work up from there as endurance increases. Check with your doctor to ensure you are healthy enough for aerobic exercise.

Beneficial Exercise Choices

Exercise choices for senior citizens should take into account health status, fitness level and any physical limitations. For seniors who are in good health with no physical limitations, the choices are numerous -- anything from walking and low-impact aerobics to running and cycling.

All senior citizens, but especially those who are deconditioned, may take longer to heal from an injury so aerobic routines that are safe yet effective are ideal. For those with physical limitations or those new to exercise, walking poses little risk of injury and can raise the heart rate if done briskly enough. As a weight-bearing exercise, walking helps strengthen muscles and bones.

Swimming, water walking and water aerobics classes are other effective methods of aerobic exercise that strengthen muscles but are easy in the joints.

Overcoming Obstacles and Staying Motivated

Obstacles to aerobic activity include pain, disabilities, lack of confidence, poor vision and depression. Exercise routines that are easy on the joints can reduce and even help improve pain. Routines that provide companionship, such as walking or water classes, can offer both physiological and emotional benefits. Exercising with a friend or in a group can increase motivation, build friendships, and even lessen depression.

Seniors with physical limitations should consult with their doctor about the best aerobic exercise routines.

Read more: Exercises for Senior Citizens

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