Seniors who are physically active are more likely to "age successfully," according to a study published in British Journal of Sports Medicine. So what does successful aging look like? Study authors defined the term as being free from major chronic diseases (like diabetes and heart disease), having no disabilities (either physical or mental), and showing no symptoms of depression. That's not all: Researchers found that even previously inactive seniors can reap the benefits by taking up exercise later in life. Ready to get started? Experts say aerobic activity (aka cardio) is essential — read on for advice on working up a sweat 60.
Get Your 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.
Gradually Increase Time
Aerobic routines should be long enough to get your heart rate and breathing up 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. If that sounds daunting, don't worry. The National Institutes on Aging says that you can gradually increase your time — aiming for around 30 minutes after several days or weeks of a routine. Once you're comfortable with the time, you can up the challenge level by picking up the pace or going uphill.
Choose the Right Routine
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 brisk walking and low-impact aerobics to running and cycling counts. 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 also 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. Of course, consult your doctor first if you're new to working out or having any physical limitations.
Overcome Obstacles and Stay Motivated
Setbacks to maintaining a fitness routine 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.