Better Life Through Exercises for Seniors

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
a senior who has difficulty standing and a nurse is helping him

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

A group of seniors doing stretching exercises

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.
a group of seniors doing water exercises in the pool

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
  • Infection
  • 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. 

Source healthyliving nhs
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1 year ago

I’m 57, and I’ve never worked out my whole life. My doctor told me I should walk more to control my blood sugar level. I have type 2 diabetes. Now I walk about 4 hours a week since last year. The problem is, I’ve never felt so inflexible before. Is it too late for me to start a flexibility exercise routine? And what exercises are best for increasing flexibility at my age?

Reply to  Hazel
10 months ago

Dear Hazel, remember that it’s never too late! I think yoga and stretching exercises can help you. I’m 49, and It’s been four years that I started yoga. It was hard at first; however, I noticed that it had reduced the aches and pain as time passed. Moreover, my body is more flexible now. 

Reply to  Hazel
10 months ago

It’s not late, BUT You should be very careful tho. Even in light sports like yoga, some positions and stretches are heavy for some people. I injured my back in yoga when I was in the bridge pose. Talk to your doctor before doing any sport.

1 year ago

I’m 60, and I have had chronic heart disease since I’ve been sixteen. I was on the high school swimming team at that time, and after doctors diagnosed my problem, I got disappointed. But after a while, after consulting with my doctor and an expert trainer, I’ve started exercising again. Although I couldn’t do professional exercise like others, I’ve done exercise till today. I think the secret of being healthy than my age is regular exercise despite my disease. 

Reply to  Joseph
11 months ago

You’re a real hero. I wish I had your courage and strength. I have never succeeded in committing to any exercise plan. I love playing basketball, but I haven’t played in decades. All my physical activity is walking for 40 minutes or so, I even have a stationary bike, but I never use it.

ron simons
ron simons
1 year ago

When I was younger, I used to play football with my friends and colleagues. But when I was getting older, my joints were never let me play football anymore! So I always looked for low-intensity sports to keep my body active. Furthermore, I found some fun sports activities such as yoga or aerobics. Also, I found a great couch that has a professional manner with elders. Because of our special situation, we need to pay more attention to our muscles and joints. Also, light swimming is another activity that makes us calm and healthy. 

10 months ago

For about 25 years, I hated heavy physical activities and any kind of sports. When I was 25, I started going to the gym because my friend didn’t want to go alone. Now, after about 40 years, I still exercise 4 times a day, and I am healthier than everyone my age around me.

Reply to  Teddy
9 months ago

Hi Teddy. I think people like you inspire others around the same age. My mother used to hate working out as well, but after turning 26, she started going to the gym and working out alongside my dad. My dad gave up on working out in a few months, but my mom didn’t. Now she’s almost in her 60s and has better health than I and most of her friends and sisters do. And I’m really proud of her for it. I believe that as long as you stay focused on your goals, you will achieve them eventually. And become an inspiration for others in the process.

10 months ago

If you are over the 60s, you need to be extra careful about your life. If you don’t exercise every day, you may have to stretch three days a week to maintain flexibility and proper functioning. Stretching improves flexibility and helps in expanding the arteries, which improves heart health. Walking will also bring more oxygen and nutrients to your organs. It helps to increase heart rate and blood pressure. Doing 30 to 40 minutes of swimming a day will help you reduce coronary heart disease in women by up to 40 percent.

Reply to  Charlotte
9 months ago

Yep, you are absolutely right. All you said are among the benefits of exercising in older ages, but what is not mentioned either in the article or in your comment is the spiritual benefits for seniors, preventing depression and lousy mood mainly if done in groups. Doing exercise in a team is immensely energizing and mood-lifting.

9 months ago

Squatting is the way to go! An essential exercise a person can do for their health is squatting. It is beneficial for seniors because it increases strength and balance. It’s also crucial since seniors are at a higher risk of falling. When I say squat, I don’t mean getting under the barbell and putting up a lot of weight, but instead, try bodyweight squats.

Matthew Murphy
Matthew Murphy
Reply to  Ned
9 months ago

Thank you, Ned; I feel that awareness inside the body is vital for exercise and being healthy. I am starting my squats with my kitchen chair, a pad, and a door and having trouble with my knees and difficulty standing up from a sitting position. I’m in my mid-sixties and have had trouble getting up off the floor lately! It isn’t very comfortable, but I like the effort. I have always worked out, but I am more concerned with what I need to work on as I age. It is all on the inside!

9 months ago

Suppose you’re over 50 and have just decided to do some exercises. In that case, I sincerely recommend you to do it just for your health, not to look better, to get in shape or become muscular! Please don’t put so much pressure on yourself to have six-packs or be like Arnold cause having shaped muscles is not a priority at this age. Putting too much pressure on your body can cause severe and irrecoverable injuries. The aim should be maintaining strength and being healthier.

Reply to  liam
9 months ago

I agree with you, Liam. You both are humorous and very informative about exercise and health. I am at the age where I need to do exercises for the strength and flexibility of my joints. I’ve been exercising since my 40’s with my loved ones, it’s never too late, and it is one of the essential things to remain strong. Just take care of yourself and do not put too much pressure on your body. I wish everyone here happiness, love, and peace. Many blessings are coming your way. 

8 months ago

Walk. Walk everywhere you can. Go on trips and walk. I really pity those who cannot walk due to bad knees, hips etc.
I believe 1 hour of active, purposeful walk is enough to get you going for the day.
The more we are exposed to nature, the more we feel a part of it…
I just adore seeing the surrounding, the birds, shops, children playing, people talking to each other…
It’s a whole other vibe. Aside from this, I burn calories. So it’s a win-win situation.
Just remember, don’t walk or jog on roadsides. That’s calling for trouble.