While there is no fountain of youth, staying active can help seniors feel much younger than their age. As long as individuals over 70 are cleared by their doctor, moderate exercise offers numerous health benefits.
Seniors should strive for a balanced workout including aerobic activity, strength training and balance and flexibility exercises. Staying active benefits senior's physical, emotional and mental health. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommendations for mobile and healthy seniors is essentially the same as it is for younger adults.
Do 150 to 300 minutes of moderately-intense cardio activity a week; plus two sessions a week of strength-training activities. Where the guidelines differ is the stress placed upon seniors to indulge in balance training activities such as yoga or tai chi.
Many low-impact aerobic activities are appropriate for those over 70, such as walking, swimming and riding a stationary bike. Seniors may find the low and reclined seat of a recumbent stationary bike more comfortable and safer to operate than an upright model. Len Kravitz writing for the University of New Mexico recommends that seniors engage in exercise that pushes their heart rate into a range that is no more than 40 percent of their maximum heart rate — age subtracted from 220. That's an especially important consideration for those who are frail or have been sedentary.
Read more: Exercises for Senior Citizens
Safe Strength Training
Strength training can counteract the typical muscle mass loss that occurs with advanced age and can decrease the risk of falls and broken bones. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, it is never too late to start. They have recognized that seniors who perform resistance training achieve similar gains to younger people. Hand weights and resistance bands are safe and effective forms of strength training for seniors.
Get checked out by your doctor to see if you're physically capable of strength training and for your first couple of sessions it might be a good idea to have a fitness professional walk you through the moves. Pilates and tai chi help build core strength, reinforcing balance skills and improving range of motion.
Building Flexibility and Balance
It is crucial for seniors to maintain good flexibility and balance skills to reduce the risk of falls. Yoga and tai chi are excellent forms of gentle exercise that improve flexibility and balance. Yoga and tai chi also help strengthen mental awareness and concentration, which can further reduce the risk of falls and injuries. Poses and exercises can be modified to accommodate physical limitations. These disciplines can improve senior's confidence in performing daily activities safely and independently.
Read more: Exercises to Improve Balance in Seniors
Being Fit After 70
Seniors with cardiac issues, diabetes, osteoporosis or arthritis are at higher risk of health complications from exercising and should be monitored closely by a health professional. People over 70 are more sensitive to extreme temperatures, putting them at greater risk of dehydration, overexertion, heat stroke and cold injuries. Seniors should keep track of their heart rate with a heart rate monitor to reduce the risk of overexertion. When lifting weights, proper breathing techniques should be reinforced to prevent drops in blood pressure.