A regular exercise plan is an essential part of every senior care plan. Most health experts agree that a certain amount of exercise benefits anyone at any age and regular physical activity is especially important as you grow older. Many senior adults are not getting the recommended amount of physical activity. The truth is, you are never too old to exercise, and increasing the level of your physical activity can actually improve your health. Fortunately, you can get the exercise you need in just a few short minutes each day.
Why Senior Exercise is Important
When you become less active, you begin to lose muscle strength and endurance. Eventually, you grow weak and begin to lose the ability to perform essential activities of daily living, including bathing, going to the bathroom, fixing a meal and cleaning the house. Performing simple tasks, such as walking around your own home, become increasingly difficult. In the long run, avoiding exercise may weaken you to a point where you cannot live at home on your own.
Senior exercise keeps your muscles and bones strong. Strong muscles not only preserve your ability to take care of yourself, they also improve your balance to reduce the risk for falls. The National Institute on Health (NIH) says that more than one-third of people age 65 or older fall each year. Physical activity keeps your bones strong, which decreases the risk for bone fractures in case you do fall.
Seniors are not getting the exercise they need to stay healthy. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says only one-fourth of people between the ages of 65 and 74 engage in regular physical activity. The news is worse for individuals with physical disabilities: Only 30 percent of people age 50 or older with a disability exercise regularly.
This sedentary lifestyle has serious health consequences. Seniors who do not exercise regularly suffer higher rates of coronary heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke as well as an increased risk for the development of colon cancer and breast cancer. Sedentary individuals also face a greater risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Increasing physical activity greatly reduces these risks. Improve your health and independence by incorporating exercise into your daily senior care plan.
Exercise as Part of a Senior Care Plan
To stay strong and independent, your senior care plan should include each of the four main types of exercises:
- Strength exercises to build muscles.
- Endurance exercises to improve heart function.
- Stretching exercises to keep you limber.
- Balance exercises to reduce the risk for falls.
Strength exercises also control your metabolism, which is the rate at which your body uses the food you eat as fuel. You can perform strength exercises by lifting weights, using machines at your local gym or spa, working with resistance bands, doing push-ups, working in the garden and doing yoga.
Endurance exercises help you continue doing what you love a little longer by improving the way your heart and lungs work during physical activity. Improve your endurance by walking, swimming, raking leaves and bicycling.
Stretch those muscles to improve freedom of movement in your joints. You can do stretching exercises anywhere without any special equipment. The NIH’s Senior Health website lists the following 12 flexibility exercises:
- Neck stretch
- Shoulder stretch
- Shoulder and upper-arm raise
- Upper body stretch
- Chest stretch
- Back stretch
- Ankle stretch
- Back-of-leg stretch
- Thigh stretch
- Hip stretch
- Lower-back stretch
- Calf stretch
Perform each stretching exercise three to five times each session. Hold each position for 10 to 30 seconds. Try to progress a little further with each stretch.
Balance exercises can be performed anywhere, too. Stand on one foot as long as you can – make sure you have something to grab on to in case you tip over. Perform back leg raises and side leg raises to strengthen the leg muscles that help you keep your balance. Improve your overall balance by walking from heel to toe. Before you begin any exercise session, make sure you have a sturdy chair or person nearby in case you feel unsteady.
Speak with your primary care provider before beginning any senior exercise program. Your doctor can help you decide what exercise programs are most appropriate for you.
Just remember – you are never too old to exercise!