Exercise and physical activity are suitable for people of all ages, and they should have a special place in our daily routines. But a question might arise: that is the safety of exercises for the elderly. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, all seniors can take advantage of exercises based on their physical condition. It is worthy to note that regular exercise prevents chronic diseases, improves mood, and reduces injury risk. In this article of Living Maples, we will discuss how better life is possible through exercises for seniors.
Aging reduces our body’s healing capability, but moderate exercise is suitable for people of different ages and ability levels. The benefits of regular exercise outweigh its risks. Recent studies have shown that regular exercise can help reduce heart disease, diabetes, constipation, high blood pressure, and obesity. The caregiver has an influential role in encouraging the elderly to exercise.
Benefits of Exercise for the Elderly
Exercising can have many advantages for the elderly, and by making use of the best workouts for seniors, they can maintain their physical fitness even during old age. The list of exercises for seniors is endless, but they all share one goal: having a healthier life during old age. Some of the benefits of exercise programs for seniors are as follows:
- Improving Immune System
A healthy body fights infection and disease more easily and quickly. If the elderly exercise regularly, their recovery process will happen faster.
- Better Respiratory and Cardiovascular Function
Exercise for the elderly reduces the risk of heart disease and lowers blood pressure. Furthermore, strong lungs and respiratory tracts and a healthy cardiovascular system allow the body to function more efficiently and effectively, eliminating any attack that could make us sick.
- Improving Bone Health
Exercise prevents bone loss. Higher bone density reduces the risk of osteoporosis and fractures. Strength training for seniors can dramatically minimize bone loss, restore bones, and help improve balance. Exercise also helps control inflammation of joints and pain associated with arthritis.
- Improves Gastrointestinal Function
Regular exercise for the elderly helps boost metabolism and enhances gastrointestinal health. Physical activity is also an excellent treatment for people suffering from constipation and reduces the risk of colon cancer and diabetes mortality.
- Protection against Chronic Conditions
Physical activity for the elderly reduces the risk of severe illness and can minimize symptoms after developing certain conditions. For example, exercise is essential to help the elderly in conditions such as dementia and Parkinson’s disease to maintain balance and coordination and promote functional independence.
Types of Exercises for the Elderly
Activities that are recommended for the elderly are divided into four main categories:
Endurance Exercises for the Elderly
Endurance exercise is beneficial for the healthy functioning of the cardiovascular system. This type of exercise guarantees the overall health of the elderly. Endurance exercise also increases the ability to perform daily activities and delays movement limitations in the elderly, resulting in aging.
Activities such as walking, jogging, dancing, and swimming are among the sports that fall into this group.
Stretching Exercises for the Elderly
Stretching exercises are beneficial for keeping muscles healthy and strong. Consult your geriatrician before doing stretching exercises. Stretching exercises should start with light weights, and workouts such as those done with dumbbells and TRX are among these activities.
Flexibility Exercises for the Elderly
Increasing the body’s flexibility in the elderly also reduces the risk of injury by increasing the joints’ range of motion and greater muscle efficiency in the elderly.
Balance Exercises for the Elderly
Most experts believe that balance exercises for seniors are among the best choices. They are classified as the easiest exercises for seniors. Furthermore, balance exercises reduce the rate of falls in the elderly and can be done at home under a caregiver or coach’s supervision. The most common balance exercises for the elderly are yoga, tai chi, and Pilates.
How Much Exercise is Suitable for the Elderly?
Older adults over 65 should have at least 2.5 hours of moderate aerobic exercise per week (such as walking). Or they should do 1 hour and 15 minutes of exercise such as jogging every week. They should also do strength training at least two days a week. They can work on balance and flexibility every day. Also, indoor activities for seniors should be included in their daily routine. Examples of indoor activities include:
- Walking in the house or walking on a treadmill
- Using the stairs instead of the elevator
- Doing light exercises while watching TV
Misconceptions about senior exercise routines
What activities are not useful for the elderly? And what are the positive and negative attitudes in old age? Many older people believe that exercise is not for them. Some common misconceptions that lead seniors to give up physical activity include:
- Older people are weak; hence physically unable to exercise
- The body does not need physical activity in old age
- Exercise is dangerous for the elderly because it may harm them.
- Only strength and endurance exercises are useful.
These beliefs are not true. Seniors can enjoy many benefits of simple exercises appropriate for their condition. The elderly nurse or caregiver can guide and prevent them from getting injured.
Safety Tips for Elderly Exercising
- Wear suitable clothes and shoes. The shoes you are wearing should be compatible with the type of exercise you are doing.
- Never dehydrate your body while exercising.
- Consult your doctor if you are over 50 and not accustomed to exercising.
- Start exercising with movements that are easier for you.
- Check your pulse regularly to make sure it is not too high.
- If you have heart disease or orthopedic problems, you need to ask your doctor’s advice about the type of exercises you should do.
There are some conditions in which the elderly have to consult their doctor before starting any physical activity. Doctors can also prescribe special exercise programs for seniors based on their needs. Some of the conditions in which consultation is necessary are as follows:
- Dizziness or shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- blood clotting
- Wounds that do not heal
- Inflammation of wounds
- Recent surgery
Suppose you want to stay healthy, reduce your risk of mental illness, and be able to go out and remain independent in old age. In that case, it is recommended that you take physical activity seriously.
How to Increase Exercise Motivation in the Elderly
- Choose interesting exercises.
- Exercise with friends. Having a companion makes physical activity enjoyable for you.
- Choose safe, easy, and comfortable activities such as walking, swimming, and cycling.
- Start slowly and aim for small improvements.
- Join senior workout groups. Exercising with people your age is much more rewarding.
The Best Time for the Elderly to Exercise
The most suitable time to do exercises depends on your goals. Since the elderly might have different conditions such as arthritis, dementia, Alzheimer’s, or diabetes, the time of the day can influence the effectiveness of their exercise routine.
- Joint Pain and Exercising in the Middle of the Day
Joint pain and stiffness are common among older people, and lack of movement during sleeping increases stiffness and pain. So, early morning is not a good time for them to do exercises.
- Dementia and Exercising in the Morning
Alzheimer‘s and dementia are among the most common mental disorders that affect the elderly population. These conditions can also affect the physical activity of the elderly. However, the symptoms of dementia mainly occur after 4:00 P.M. Furthermore; the symptoms might cause confusion and agitation and increase the risk of falling. Hence, morning is the best time to do exercises for the elderly suffering from mental disorders.
- Exercising at Night
As we age, our sleep requirement decreases; in some, this decline is much more severe and leads to insomnia. Insomniac seniors have difficulty getting to sleep or maintaining it. As proven by various studies, exercising can increase serotonin and dopamine production, improving mood and energy. Hence, the elderly should avoid exercising near bedtime to have a quality sleep during the night.
The bottom line is
Regular, moderate exercises, such as brisk walking, have increased life expectancy by several years. For example, 150 minutes of workout or more each week raised life expectancy by about seven years over those who didn’t do a regular moderate workout. Exercising is the healthiest way to a happier and healthier life.