Exercises for Senior Citizens

Just in case you needed more motivation to workout through your 60s and beyond: Research shows that staying active not only improves your physical health — reducing pain, increasing energy, and ensuring you stay mobile and independent for longer — it also can help keep your brain fit and boost your sense of well-being. To reap all these benefits, the National Institute on Aging says adults need to get a mix of four types of exercise: endurance, strengthening, stretching and balance. While that may sound daunting, your routine can actually be fairly simple and easy to maintain. Read on for a complete guide.

Bicyling can be an excellent and enjoyable exercise for senior citizens. (Image: Noel Hendrickson/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Go the Distance

Endurance exercises, which benefit the heart and circulatory system, include walking, bicycling, swimming and dancing. Rebounding on a mini trampoline can be an ideal exercise for senior citizens as well, because it is gentle while being highly beneficial to the body. If you are already active and physically fit, try more strenuous endurance exercises, such as hiking, jogging or tennis. Exercise with a buddy who can keep you motivated and provide valuable social interaction. Exercising outdoors can be preferable, depending on the weather and season, because you get much-needed fresh air and vitamin D from sunlight at the same time.

Strengthening

Strengthening activities, which build muscles, boost metabolism and strengthen bones, include lifting free weights, using resistance bands, squatting while holding onto the side of a chair or doing push-ups on the wall. Metabolism slows as a person ages, but strengthening exercise can counteract that and help with weight loss as well. Strong bones are necessary for preventing osteoporosis and bone loss, and strong muscles can help you in completing everyday tasks such as lifting groceries and doing housework. Joining a strengthening exercise class at the local gym, city recreation center or senior center can provide the added perk of social interaction, which is highly important for seniors.

Stretching

Maintaining flexibility is a key benefit of stretching exercises, which can include a unique discipline such as yoga or Pilates, or be incorporated as a preface to the other three types of exercise. Always stretch before starting your endurance and strengthening exercises. For a simple stretch, sit close to the front end of a chair and lean back on your hands. Stretch your legs out straight in front of you. Stretch your feet and ankles by extending your feet toward and then away from your body. Some venues offer stretching exercise classes designed specifically for senior citizens, with exercises and intensity levels appropriate for older adults.

Balance

Balance exercises can minimize the risk of falls, which can result in serious complications for seniors. They can also improve posture and body mechanics. Some simple balance exercises that you can do anywhere without equipment include standing on one foot, and getting up and down from a chair without holding onto the chair. You can also try walking heel to toe, by placing your heel directly in front of the toes of your opposite foot as you walk.

Considerations

Stay well hydrated while exercising by drinking plenty of fresh, clean water.You're never too old to begin or resume an exercise program. Senior citizens who have not exercised recently can still get into shape and feel better in the process. Seniors should use a great deal of caution when exercising, especially when just beginning to get more active after a sedentary spell. To reduce the risk of injuries and falls, start slowly and gradually build up to more repetitions and more challenging exercises in your routine. Stop exercising immediately and contact your health practitioner if you develop symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath or dizziness, or if you fall or injure yourself while exercising.

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