We all know that fitness is one of the major keys to staying active, healthy, happy, and full of vitality as you age. But seniors also need to take into account that injury from overexertion or exercise too strenuous can lead to serious complications or much longer healing times as you age.
A large health study suggests that the elderly can benefit from as little as 15 minutes per day of moderately heart-pumping exercise. (Though 30 minutes minimum is recommended.) An active fitness routine can help everything from balance and strength, to delaying the onset of heart disease and dementia. It can reduce depression, prevent diabetes, delay or prevent osteoporosis, and reduce occurrences of breast and colon cancer.
So what kind of exercise should you do? For how long? And how often?
There are three main types of exercise, aerobic/endurance-building, weight training, and stretching.
Endurance building exercises are activities like walking, swimming, dancing, or anything else that gets your heart rate up and increases circulation falls into this category. This includes chores like shovelling snow, walking the dog, raking leaves, or mowing the lawn, as long as you do it at a pace that gets your heart pumping! Increased activity that ups your heart-rate is the number one most important element for mood, weight, and cardiac benefits.
Weight training doesn’t need to mean lifting weights like a bodybuilder, although lifting weights is really good for muscle health and can counteract the muscle loss that comes along with old age. It also ups your metabolism, which helps keep your weight and blood sugar in check! Physical labour chores can be part of a weight-building regimen, as can exercise that uses your own body-weight, like push-ups, lunges, arm-circles, and sit-ups. Yoga and pilates are great ways to incorporate muscle-building into your routine.
Stretching exercises help maintain flexibility, increase balance, and help prevent injury. It’s important to include stretching with any exercise you do, because it helps prevent you from over-exerting muscles during exercise. They can also help with old injuries, back pain, headaches, and other recurring symptoms. Stretching will keep you active, reduce tension, and keep your mobility at it’s peak!
The length of time you devote to fitness daily will depend -at first- on your current fitness level. For moderate activity (working hard enough that it’s difficult to talk, but not so hard that it’s impossible), the ideal is a 30 minute workout. But consistency is more important than overworking yourself, so if you haven’t been very active until now, you might want to build up to 30 minutes over time, start with as little as 5 minutes, if you need too. Listen to your body!
A large health study in Taiwan followed about 416,000 people for an average of eight years and discovered that people who exercised just 15 minutes a day reduced their mortality from all causes by 14 per cent and increased their life expectancy by three years.
The frequency of exercise is your key to seeing long-term health benefits, so you should be trying to get some activity into your routine every day, or nearly every day. Consistency is the key to building stamina, muscle, and seeing those great health benefits.
At least twice a week your schedule should include muscle-building, and every other day should include aerobic activity. Stretching is best if it happens as part of your cool-down after working out, or first thing every morning. If 30 minutes every day doesn’t fit into your schedule, you can try dividing your time up differently, such as doing an hour and fourty-five minutes of activity every Saturday and Sunday and none during the week. Also keep in mind that 30 minutes a day can happen in three 10-minute installments, or two 15-minute sessions, if you’re busy or worried about overworking yourself.
However you set your goals, make sure you can accomplish them, and remember to always take a break if you need one! A few days off every week to relax and recuperate is better than doing damage by pushing too hard, and it’s also better than setting yourself goals that you won’t follow through on. Any activity is better than none!
Vigorous exercise carries risks that people should discuss with a doctor. You should always check with your doctor before starting a new exercise programme, especially if you have any of the following risk factors:
- A symptom you have never told your doctor about
- Arthritis of the hips or knees
- Blood clots
- Chest pain
- Chronic lung disease
- Eye injury or recent eye surgery
- Family history of a cardiovascular disease
- Foot or ankle sores that won’t heal
- Heart disease
- Heart palpitations
- High blood pressure
- History of smoking
- Joint swelling
- Pain or trouble walking after a fall
- Shortness of breath