Exercises for People Over 70

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 seniors’ physical, emotional and mental health. The physical activity of people over 70 should be closely monitored by a medical professional as seniors are at a higher risk for complications.

A woman doing tai chi by the lake. (Image: meteo021/iStock/Getty Images)

Low-Impact Aerobics

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 safe to operate than an upright model. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that seniors engage in exercise that pushes their heart rate into a range that is 55 percent to 90 percent of their maximum heart rate -- age subtracted from 220. For those who are frail or have been sedentary, strive for the lower end of the target heart rate range.

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, a two- to three-fold increase in the muscle strength of older adults can be achieved in just three to four months of consistent resistance training. Hand weights and resistance bands are safe and effective forms of strength training for seniors. 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 seniors’ confidence in performing daily activities safely and independently.

Cautions and Concerns

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.

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