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.
Go the Distance
Endurance exercises, which benefit the heart and circulatory system, include walking, bicycling, swimming and dancing. Rebounding on a mini trampoline is another option — assuming you get the okay from your healthcare provider first. A jumping session is low-impact, gets your heart rate up, and may help improve balance, according to one recent study. If you're already active and physically fit, try more strenuous endurance exercises, such as hiking, jogging or tennis. For an added bonus, exercise with a buddy who can help you stay motivated and provide valuable social interaction.
With age comes both bone and muscle loss, the latter of which slows down your metabolism and can lead to unwanted weight gain. 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. Research suggests that joining a strengthening exercise class at the local gym, city recreation center or senior center can provide the added perk of social interaction and help you stay committed.
Find Your Balance
Balance exercises are essential to minimizing your risk of falls, which can result in serious complications for seniors. Unsure of where to begin with balance exercises? A recent study found that eight weeks of bi-weekly hatha yoga classes improved balance and gait, and significantly reduced the risk of falls in older adults. If you can't get to a yoga class, 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.
Stretch It Out
Because muscles become less pliable with age, you'll want to 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 fitness centers offer stretching exercise classes designed specifically for senior citizens, with exercises and intensity levels appropriate for older adults.