As individuals age, they often find it increasingly difficult to perform exercises that were once performed with ease. When this happens, some older adults can become discouraged and may avoid exercise altogether. Others will push themselves to perform exercises that are no longer recommended for them, which can lead to strains, sprains and other injuries. Exercise is a must for individuals looking to improve their overall health; however, the exercises that are performed should be relative to the abilities of the individuals performing them. To get the most out of an exercise routine, older adults should engage in specific activities and exercises that are geared for a more mature age group.
Yoga is a relatively low impact workout that improves flexibility, strengthens muscles and helps to relieve stress. Older adults who are just getting back into an exercise routine can enjoy the benefits of a low impact yoga workout, which focuses on a combination of breathing techniques, gentle exercises and meditation. Because yoga relies on a non-strenuous approach to exercise, it is appealing to older adults, especially those who present with physical limitations.
Tai Chi is an ancient exercise form that relies on the use specific movements combined with deep breathing. This combination helps to improve overall health by strengthening muscles, improving balance, increasing range of motion and strengthening the mind-body connection. This type of exercise is beneficial for older adults who have not exercised in many years and want to start out slowly. It is also a good choice for older individuals who suffer from arthritis or other conditions that result in chronic pain, as the movements do not put any additional strain on bones or joints.
Swimming is an excellent way for older individuals to get in shape without risking injury. The low-impact nature of swimming together with the buoyancy of the water can help take pressure off of the joint and is a good option for those who suffer from back and neck injuries. Swimming has the benefit of working every single muscle group, including the heart and lungs, without relying on high impact exercises.
Walking is a simple way for older adults to get started with an exercise routine and improve their cardiovascular health. No special equipment is required, and anyone can start walking at any time. Sedentary individuals can start out with a quick 15 minute walk around the block. If weather conditions are poor, a simple stroll around the mall or local store will suffice. As time goes on, the duration and intensity of the walks can be gradually increased. After just a few weeks of brisk walking, an overall improvement in general health can be seen in most people.
Biking is another option for older adults who are seeking a low-impact workout routine. Not recommended for the beginner, it is a great exercise for individuals looking to step up their performance to a moderate pace without engaging in high-impact activities. Biking conditions the body, strengthens core muscles and legs, and improves cardiovascular health.
Dancing is a fun and care free way to sneak in some exercise without feeling like you are really exercising. This is an excellent activity for older adults who just can’t stand the thought of exercising and cannot bring themselves to make it through a traditional workout. Dancing allows individuals to go at their own pace, and aside from some good music, no special equipment is required. Individuals can dance in the comfort of their own home, or can enroll in formal dance classes. There are beginner dance classes for those just getting started and advanced classes for those who are ready to turn it all the way up.
Many older adults know that they need to exercise but just can’t find the motivation to participate in traditional exercise routines. For them, getting involved in simple outdoor activities is a fun way to incorporate healthy living while doing things they love. Gardening, hiking, yard work, rowing, golfing, playing tennis and even bird-watching are simple ways to get the blood flowing and the heart pumping. Whatever the outdoor activity you choose, the important thing is to just get up and get moving.
Body weight exercises are simple to perform and don’t require any special equipment. Older adults can strengthen their muscles and improve stamina over time by simply relying on their own body weight. These types of resistance exercises include sit-ups, push-ups, crunches, lunges, squats, pelvic tilts, knee extensions and step-ups on stairs.
Pilates focuses on core muscles by combining conditioning movements and strength training. Improving core muscles becomes increasingly important as you age. This exercise technique improves flexibility, strengthens muscles and improves mental health by utilizing a series of controlled movements. Not only is the core responsible for stabilizing the back and the stomach, but it also strengthens the urinary muscles to help prevent incontinence.
Although these types of exercises are not for beginners, they are an excellent option for older adults who have mastered basic exercise routines and would like to turn it up a notch. Using free weights, whether at home or at the gym, can help bulk up muscles when basic workouts have become stagnant. Free weights are beneficial for older adults because the amount of weight used can be altered depending on the overall physical condition of the individual at the time of the workout.
Physical activity is vital to a person's health, especially as the body ages. If you cannot perform any of the activities listed, look for another means of getting the blood flowing through regular, physical movement. (For information on low-impact exercises suitable for the elderly, read Low-Impact Aerobics: Easy Workouts For Anyone.)