6 Physical Fitness Tips for Seniors

January 06, 2015

Preventative-Steps-to-Avoid-Heart-Disease-300x240Need proof that physical fitness has no age limit? Consider the story of Harriette Thompson, a Southerner who’s conquered a slew of marathons. The tenacious nonagenarian set a record in 2014 at the Rock ’n’ Roll San Diego marathon. She was the fastest competitor in the 90-94 age group. Of course, there are plenty of seniors who aren’t able to pound the pavement for 26.2 miles. However, millions of older adults can engage in some level of physical activity. And those who do exercise reap a multitude of rewards.

Benefits of physical fitness

There’s plenty of proof about the positive impact that physical fitness has on seniors. According to NIH Senior Health, regular physical activity can:

  • Prevent or delay disease

Scientists have found that staying physically active and exercising regularly can help prevent or delay many diseases and disabilities. In some cases, exercise is an effective treatment for many chronic conditions. For example, studies show that people with arthritis, heart disease or diabetes benefit from regular exercise. Exercise also helps people who have high blood pressure, balance problems or difficulty walking.

  • Manage stress, improve mood

Regular, moderate physical activity can help manage stress and improve mood. And being active on a regular basis may help reduce feelings of depression. Studies also suggest that exercise can improve or maintain some aspects of cognitive function, such as the ability to shift quickly between tasks, plan an activity and ignore irrelevant information. Here are six tips to help seniors get or stay fit.

Get a cardio workout

No matter the level of physical fitness, all seniors need to engage in activity that challenges the heart and lungs. Among the best cardio exercises are walking and jogging. For those with physical limitations, chair exercises are a viable option.

Engage in strength training

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend a strength workout that includes a warm-up, upper- and lower-body (seated or standing) exercises that can be performed with or without weights and a cool down.

Work on balance and flexibility

Statistics show that falling is the most common form of accidental injury among seniors. Activities that help to reduce the chances of falling and may improve flexibility include one-legged stands, walking heel to toe, stretching exercises (including yoga) and tai chi.

Take deep breaths

As we age, the rib cage and surrounding muscles get stiffer and breathing becomes more difficult. Livestrong.com  recommends exercises – such as belly-breath, humming and abdominal-assisted breathing – that can improve airflow.

Try new activities

You’re never too old to pursue a new activity. Non-swimmers can sign up for swim lessons or take water aerobics for the first time. Seniors with “two left feet” can opt for dance lessons. And seniors who have no interest in running can enjoy the pleasures of hiking trails of all kinds.

Get a good night’s rest

“No matter what your age,” says helpguide.org, “sleeping well is essential to your physical health and emotional well-being.” Steps that improve a senior’s odds of getting restful and restorative sleep include maintaining a sleep schedule; developing a bedtime ritual; and avoiding alcohol, big meals and large amounts of liquids before turning in. No two seniors share the same level of physical fitness. All seniors, however, can revel in its many benefits.

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