While the aging process is unavoidable, growing older doesn’t have to mean growing completely out of shape. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons reports that adults over 60 -- and even those greater than 85 with disabilities -- can benefit from a moderate exercise routine. Seniors who participate in regular physical activity have a better chance to remain independent, keep their minds sharp and maintain strong bones.
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Seniors and Strength Training
The Cleveland Clinic recommends strength training, or resistance exercise with weights, as an ideal component of a balanced exercise routine for senior adults. Weight training is key for adults over 60, since your body loses muscle mass with aging. An effective regimen includes three weekly workouts that build upper and lower-body strength for 20 to 30 minutes. Perform an arm curl sitting or standing with a weight no heavier than 5 lbs. Start with your arms at your sides and then bend your arm to raise and lower the weight up to 15 times. Perform a dumbbell calf raise for the lower body by standing with a weight in both hands and your feet separated by shoulder-width. Raise up on your toes and lift your heels as high as you can while breathing normally. Slowly lower your heels back to the original position. Try five repetitions with your heels straight back, as well as five with your heels turned out and five with your heels turned in.
Safe Cardio Workouts
Low-impact aerobic activities are safe for most adults over 60. Seniors who perform aerobic workouts gain increased heart strength and a reduced chance of cancer and stroke. Aerobic workouts also burn calories quickly. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons suggests walking briskly on five days weekly as an ideal exercise for beginners. Aim to walk 1/4 mile for at least two weeks and build your endurance so that you can safely walk a mile by your fifth week. Riding a regular or stationary bicycle is a safe alternative to walking for seniors who find foot exercise too stressful on the joints. Aim to ride for 30 to 60 minutes, five days a week.
A safe exercise routine begins with 5 to 15 minutes of warm-up stretches and ends with 5 to 15 minutes of cooling down. Most routines include stretching of the quadriceps and calf muscles. Perform a quad stretch by standing about a foot from a wall. Support yourself with your left hand and raise your left foot behind you. Grab the foot with your right hand and slowly pull your heel upward for about 20 seconds. A calf stretch requires facing a wall at least two feet away. Ensure that your heels are flat and your back is straight and then slowly lean forward and press your forehead and hands to the wall. Keep the stretch for around 20 seconds. Choose additional movements that are comfortable for you to involve as many of your body's muscles and joints as possible.
The benefits of an exercise routine come with consistency. Unexpected injuries can force you to remain sedentary, so check with your doctor prior to getting started to confirm your routine is safe -- especially if you use prescribed medicines or haven’t been physically active. Wait for two hours after a meal to start your workout and stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water before and after exercise. Consider performing your weekly routine with a friend to ensure someone is available to seek help if you suffer chest pain, palpitations, breathing difficulty or dizzy spells.