The weather is warming up, and life is very slowly returning to normal after the Coronavirus pandemic. This means there is no excuse for not getting out, even if only to your backyard to perform some exercise! That doesn’t have to mean running a marathon or lifting weights at your local gym. Actually, for seniors we suggest that you consult with your doctor before setting up an exercise routine, especially if you have underlying health conditions. There is an endless amount of safe activities that, when performed on a regular schedule, can help keep you healthy and more active for longer. Your exercise regimen may look a little different than your neighbor’s, and guess what? That is okay!
Walking and Jogging for Exercise
Walking can not only improve a senior’s health, but it can also provide a sense of independence that can sometimes feel fleeting as they age. Walking has so many health benefits for older people that it’s impossible to name them all, but listed below are a few of them:
- Helps manage weight
- Improves strength and muscular endurance
- Lowers the risk of future health problems
- Strengthens bones
- Reduces blood pressure
- Improves balance and coordination
- Improves your social life
- Reduces stress and anxiety
Jogging can also be of great benefit as long as you and your physician are comfortable with you doing so. A study performed by Humboldt State University and the University of Colorado, Boulder discovered an unexpected benefit of jogging in older adults while they exercised on a treadmill. The study looked at adults over the age of 65 years, some of whom walk for exercise, and others who run for exercise. The researchers found that those who run at least 30 minutes, three times a week were less likely to experience age-related physical decline in walking efficiency than those who simply walked!
Cycling for Exercise
Some may consider cycling risky business for seniors, and that is understandable if one suffers from injuries or health conditions that alter balance and corrdination. However, bicycling does not have to mean hitting the pavement. A stationary bike, or even an adjustable senior chair bike, may be the best option for you or your loved one. As with any form of exercise, you have to weigh your own risk factors before choosing a form of exercise that fits you. If cycling is something you are comfortable performing, below are just a few of the benefits that those who cycle regularly may experience.
- It is a low impact, low-stress exercise- When you cycle your body moves in smooth motions that don’t add any undue stress.
- Weight Loss- Weight gain is a problem among seniors as they become less active with age. Additional pounds can lead to health problems like diabetes and heart disease.
- Cycling is great for your heart- Stroke, heart disease, and heart attacks are the most common cause of death for seniors. Safe cycling is a great way to keep these chronic ailments at bay and increase your heart’s performance.
- Senior cycling improves memory– Biking is wonderful for those who suffer from memory loss or chronic conditions, like Alzheimer’s and dementia. When you cycle, the brain experiences increased blood flow which then stimulates the hippocampus- the part of your brain that’s responsible for memory.
- Reduces the risk of cancer– One of the leading causes of cancer is obesity. According to a recent survey by the World Health Organization, obesity has now overtaken smoking as a leading cause of common cancers! So lets get moving!
- Riding is a great way to exercise with fellow seniors– Endless research has proved that seniors who have an active social life are healthier, happier, and that they live longer. Cycling is a great way to get together with your friends a few times a week and have some fun while improving your health.
- Cycling is good for your sex life– As we age we become less sexually active, as our bodies no longer produce the hormones that are required to keep us going sexually. Exercising increases “feel-good” endorphins and lowers the body’s cortisol levels, which in turn helps maintain a healthy sex drive.
- Senior bicycling is great for maintaining body strength– A common problem that seniors face as they age is loss of muscle tone. This then leads to a loss of muscular strength. As you cycle, the strength of your muscle fibers improve, and the stronger your muscles become.
- Cycling is fun- Are you bored since retiring? Do you feel like you don’t have enough to do, and that you don’t interact with enough people? You may be able to change that by getting on a bike! The more fun you have, the more active you will be and the healthier you will become.
Yoga can be a perfect exercise for any age! With so many poses and modifications, there truly is a safe practice for anyone. On top of that, yoga has been shown to not only improve your strength, but has countless other health benefits that reach beyond flexibility. The AARP published an article on a few of the ways yoga may specifically benefit seniors. Those include:
- Yoga minimizes hypertension- “Yoga has a powerful effect on stress and hypertension and can help people reduce the amount of medication [seniors] need,” says Amy Wheeler, yoga professor at California State University at San Bernardino. In a review of 17 studies published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, researchers reported significant reductions in blood pressure for interventions incorporating three basic elements of yoga practice: postures, meditation and breathing. Researchers speculate that the slow, controlled breathing characteristic to yoga practice decreases nervous system activity, which helps manage blood pressure levels.
- Yoga strengthens bones– “People in their 50’s often develop the beginning stages of osteoporosis and low bone density,” notes Melinda Atkins, a yoga teacher in Miami. Studies consistently show that the weight-bearing activity of yoga helps slow bone thinning, reducing the risks of osteoporosis, particularly among postmenopausal women.
- Yoga helps keep excess pounds away– Yoga can enhance concentration and determination in all aspects of life. Practicing it every day “improves willpower and shifts your focus toward wellness rather than instant gratification,” says Larry Payne, yoga director at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. In a 2014 study out of India, published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, researchers reported that people with diabetes who did yoga three to six days per week for eight weeks, shed more pounds and inches than those who walked for the same time period.
Don’t know where to begin when starting out with your own yoga practice? Check out this YouTube channel to follow along with senior focused yoga practices.
Agingcare.com gives five beneficial reasons that dancing can be beneficial to a seniors’ health:
- Minimizes Symptoms of Depression
A group of Australian researchers found that men and women with mood disorders who participated in a two-week tango instruction program felt less depressed and experienced significant reductions in their levels of stress, anxiety and insomnia.
- Improves Strength and Balance
A few weeks of salsa dance classes can seriously increase an older adult’s strength and balance, according to a study published in the journal Gerontology. “Salsa proved to be a safe and feasible exercise program for older adults,” say study authors. They also noted the high adherence rate of the program—over 92 percent of participants ended up completing the full eight-week salsa dancing regimen.
- Reduces Joint Pain and Stiffness
Older adults with knee and hip discomfort may be able to swap their pain medications for dancing shoes, a Saint Louis University (SLU) study concluded. After engaging in a 12-week, low-impact dance program, participants with an average age of 80 years old were able to decrease the amount of pain medication they were taking by 39 percent. Study participants were also able to move around more easily—a key determinant in remaining independent. “Walking just a little more rapidly can make enough of a difference for a person to get across the street more quickly or get to the bathroom faster, which keeps them functional and independent,” says study author Jean Krampe, Ph.D., assistant professor of nursing at SLU.
- Protects Your Heart
People with stable chronic heart failure may derive the same health advantages from learning how to waltz as they would from more traditional forms of cardiovascular exercise, such as cycling or walking, says a study published in the journal Circulation. Unlike other types of cardiovascular exercise, dancing doesn’t necessarily require specialized equipment or workout settings, making it a much more accessible option for those looking to lower their blood pressure and cholesterol, and maintain a healthy body weight.
Defends Against Dementia
When compared to other leisure activities like playing golf, doing crosswords, reading and cycling, dancing appears to offer the best chance of helping stave off dementia. According to a 21-year study led by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, aging adults who danced regularly had a 76 percent reduced risk for developing dementia. Experts theorize that dancing is beneficial for our brains because it combines cardiovascular exercise with split-second decision making that taxes our neural network, forcing it to create new pathways.
Get out there!
Whichever form of exercise you decide fits you best, get out there and enjoy yourself. Half the enjoyment is doing it, but the other half comes from how much better you feel after having done it. Any of these activities are better than not doing anything, so don’t delay- exercise today!
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