Physical activity is important at any age, but as we get older becomes even more vital to our health. The fact of the matter is that elderly people have a higher risk of developing health problems such as obesity, high blood pressure and heart disease, and regular physical activity can lower that risk.
Unfortunately, though, the majority of elderly people tend to exercise less rather than more frequently as they age, either due to health problems or simply a lack of energy.
But studies have shown that moderate to vigorous exercise can lower the risk of death in the elderly, and may also protect against diabetes, Alzheimer’s and hip and vertebrae fractures.
Older adults who exercise on a regular basis tend to be stronger in general, have more energy and better balance and coordination, which helps to prevent falls and allows them to remain more independent for longer.
In short, regular strenuous activity benefits every area of a senior’s life and its importance should not be underestimated.
Of course, “strenuous” means different things for different people. For a young person, strenuous exercise will probably mean a long run or jog, while for an elderly person it can mean anything from a brisk walk to a session of gardening such as mowing or raking leaves.
The most important thing is getting the heart rate up and muscles working to increase overall strength and endurance and improve circulation.
Most experts agree that there are four types of exercise that seniors should be getting regularly. These include:
Strength training is necessary to prevent bone and muscle mass, and can include lifting (moderate weights).
Endurance exercises play an important role in keeping a person energized and increasing or maintaining stamina. About 30 minutes a day of endurance exercise such as brisk walking is recommended for seniors.
Flexibility exercises help to prevent muscles from becoming stiff after a strenuous workout, and can involve fairly simple stretches like touching toes and neck rotations.
Balance is very important and can prevent serious falls that often cause injuries such as hip fractures or dislocations in the elderly. Practicing certain exercises a couple times a week such as yoga or Pilates can strengthen the core muscles and improve overall balance.
Even frail or chair-bound seniors can find exercises that fit their needs and keep them vital and mentally fit. A physical therapist will be able to suggest appropriate chair exercises and limited mobility fitness plans, and of course it is important for any senior to consult their doctor before beginning any new exercise program.
The most important thing is to try to remain active for as long as possible, as regular physical activity can improve the quality of life for seniors and enable them to enjoy the aging process rather than fear it.