Simple exercise tips for seniors
Physical fitness is a crucial part of your personal health and well-being at any age, but it is especially important for older people.
Staying fit can help reduce the risk of injuries or serious physical conditions such as hardened arteries, heart attacks and stroke. Regular exercise is instrumental in controlling blood pressure and cholesterol levels, as well as maintaining a healthy body weight. Physical activity is also a good way to lower the risk of falls and fight osteoporosis, by strengthening muscles, tendons, bones and ligaments.
To maintain or improve your health, try to be active each day in as many ways as possible, as most of the benefits of fitness only occur with regular physical activity. According to the Australian Department of Heath’s recommendations on physical activity for older Australians, you should aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity every day.
It’s also wise to include a range of aerobic, muscle-strengthening, balance and flexibility exercises in your fitness regimen. Each form of exercise helps to improve specific elements of your overall health.
Aerobic exercises include any form of activity that increases your heart rate. At a moderate intensity level, you should be sweating a little and able to talk but not sing the words to a song. For seniors, low-impact aerobic activities are best.
- Walking – you can be physically active through incidental activities such as walking. For example, walking to the local shop, or meeting your friends for a brisk walk around the park can be great ways to include more activity in your daily life, as long as you are walking fast enough to raise your heart rate.
- Swimming – a great cardiovascular activity as there’s little risk of injury, it can improve heart health and is gentle on the joints. Swimming is a resistance activity, so it will also work all your muscles as you move through the water.
- Cycling – as well as traditional bicycles, stationary exercise bikes are a good way to stay fit as you can adjust the speed and difficulty to suit you.
- Dancing – taking a dance class is a great way to make staying fit fun.
Keeping your muscles in good condition through strength-training makes everyday tasks such as carrying groceries or climbing stairs much easier. You should try to carry out two strength-training workouts a week.
- Weights – You’re never ‘too old’ or ‘too weak’ to lift weights. Even one or two kilogram dumbbells are great for building strength. Try bicep curls, tricep extensions and chest presses to strengthen your upper body.
- Climbing stairs – as simple as it sounds, opting to take the stairs instead of an escalator or lift can help strengthen your leg muscles.
- Squats – bodyweight exercises like squats are ideal for muscle conditioning. Just be careful to have good form so you don’t place too much stress on your knee joints.
- Push ups – a challenging exercise that targets your chest and core muscles, push ups are simple to do at home or at the gym. You can modify them according to the level of difficulty you prefer, by resting your knees on the ground or even placing your hands on a wall and pushing off while standing.
Improving your balance can help prevent falls. Some simple balance related exercises include:
- Yoga – poses such as the tree pose, where you raise one foot off the ground and place it against the opposite ankle, shin or thigh, are effective in improving balance.
- Heel-to-toe walking – place the heel of one foot in front of the toes on the other, then repeat for around 20 steps. This will challenge your balance and coordination.
- Tai Chi – an ancient Chinese exercise, Tai Chi can reduce the risk of falls by up to 45 per cent, according to Harvard Health Publications. Joining a class is a gentle yet dynamic way to build balance.
Stretching is the key to maintaining a full range of motion as you get older.
- Yoga – taking a yoga class is a good way to work on flexibility as well as balance. All yoga poses can be adapted to suit your physical range.
- Stretching – you can include light stretching at the beginning or end of an aerobic or strength training workout. For example, raising your arms overhead while seated with a straight spine can increase the range of motion in your shoulders and upper back.
Moderate physical activity each day can help to maintain and improve your health and well-being. Any activity is better than none at all, so try to stay active no matter your age, weight, health, mobility or ability. And it is always best to consult your doctor before beginning a new exercise regimen, as they can help to develop a workout plan that aligns with your personal goals.
Along with physical fitness, Tunstall’s connected care services can help support personal health and well-being, helping people to live safely and independently in their own home.