If all the benefits of exercise could be put into a pill, it would be the most widely prescribed medicine on the planet. The benefits are numerous and extraordinary. Just to name a few, there are increased energy and vitality, mental clarity, enhanced self-confidence, and stronger muscles, bones, and joints. That’s why here at Embody Personal Training, we say that movement is medicine and exercise is truly the fountain of youth.
If you’re a senior looking to stay active and healthy, look no further! In this blog post, we will provide you with exercise tips for seniors that are designed to improve your overall well-being and keep you feeling young and energized. It’s never too late to start prioritizing your physical health, and with our expert advice, you’ll be well on your way to a stronger, more flexible, and happier you. Let’s dive in and discover the secrets to maintaining an active lifestyle as a senior.
Consult with your primary care physician
Although a fitness routine is very beneficial for most, there are some instances in which exercise could be contraindicated. Some examples include unstable heart conditions or severe respiratory conditions. As a senior, it’s important to make sure that you do not have any underlying conditions that exercise could worsen.
Start with a good warm-up
Athletes spend time acclimating their bodies to movement before taking the field for two reasons. 1. It helps them prevent injuries. 2. It enhances their performance. Make sure you start slow and ease into the workout safely.
Keep in mind that it’s called a warm-up because the goal is to get the blood pumping and the juices flowing. Sometimes, there is a misconception that a warm-up is just stretching. Although loosening up the joints is one of the goals, static stretching is not recommended as a warm-up. A better way to warm up is to perform low-impact movements that slowly increase the heart rate while also mobilizing joints within safe ranges.
Prioritize strength training
Resistance training can feel intimidating at first. However, the consequences of losing muscle mass are too numerous to overlook. Just a few examples are increased risks for falls, fractures, loss of independence, frailty, and a decline in overall quality of life.
The benefits of strength training through resistance exercises include more resilient muscles, joints, and bones. This translates to a much stronger foundation, which helps with balance and coordination. Additionally, more muscle mass can help enhance metabolism and cognitive functioning.
Strength training for seniors does not need to involve lifting extremely heavy weights. As a matter of fact, sticking with lighter to moderate-weight dumbbells, resistance bands, or even some body weight exercises is sufficient. Progressive loading is the key to getting stronger safely. Progressive loading means starting within safe and comfortable ranges and slowly lifting heavier weights with time.
Listen to your body
There are two popular sayings within the fitness world that are very contradictory. 1. No pain, no gain. 2. If it hurts, don’t do that. Each of these can be appropriate in different circumstances and especially at different stages of life. Understanding which is best for you and in which situations is very important and may require guidance.
Some degree of discomfort or soreness is normal and even beneficial at times. The strengthening process involves stressing muscles so that they break down and then build back stronger. For this to happen, pushing through a little discomfort may be necessary. However, pushing past certain pains that involve an injury could make it worse or delay healing. In these situations, modifying the exercises is essential. A qualified therapist or chiropractor can help you determine your injury, provide healing therapies, and give guidance on exercise modifications.
Maintain your flexibility
Use it or lose it! This is especially true when it comes to flexibility. As we age, our joints and surrounding tissues slowly contract and restrict. The great news is that it doesn’t have to be this way. A consistent stretching and mobility routine can drastically improve how you move and feel.
Mindful mobility is a class that we offer at embody personal training. The mindfulness aspect helps seniors listen to their bodies so that the stretches are slow and controlled. Modifications are always given so that the stretch is just right. Relaxed breathing techniques are taught, and they are encouraged to ease into the stretches safely.
Don’t skip cardio
The AHA (American Heart Association) suggests that older adults aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (like brisk walking) every week or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity (like jogging or running) per week.
Alternatively, a combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity can be done. For example, interval training has been shown to be as effective as steady-state cardio, however, offering the same benefits in significantly less time. An example of interval training would be doing a vigorous, high-intensity exercise followed by rest or a much lower intensity. Imagine being on a stationary bike and pushing yourself harder than you normally would for about 20 seconds, then going back to a lower intensity and manageable pace for 40 seconds. You could repeat this for 10-20 minutes and have the same heart health benefits as if you went on a brisk walk or jog for close to an hour.
Also, if mental health and memory are important to you, doctors are now recognizing that what’s good for the heart is good for the brain. At one time, cardio exercise was only thought of for heart health. Now, it’s recognized that it can boost moods and help improve sleep and cognition.
Maintain your balance
Balance exercises are a great way to keep active and train your nervous system at the same time. We consider balancing a brain flex, meaning you’re exercising your brain/body connection. Balance training will enhance coordination and agility, which translates to more graceful movements and less risk for falls.
There are many ways to improve balance, with options for beginners through experienced yogis. For beginners, practicing standing on one leg while holding on to a bar or using a wall for stability is excellent. More advanced exercises include doing single-leg exercises such as warrior 3 poses, single-leg Romanian deadlifts, or Bulgarian split squats. There is also a wide range of options in between.
Join a group
Exercise can be more enjoyable when done with friends or in a group. Some benefits are companionship, motivation, and accountability. Additionally, small-group personal training offers variety to ensure that every aspect of fitness is accounted for. Finally, a personal trainer provides guidance to make exercises safe or alternatives to make the routine more customized for you.
Keep in mind that consistency is critical. The fittest people aren’t consistently great; they’re great at being consistent. When using a group class, you’re joining a support structure that will help you get the most out of your efforts.
The path to longevity and abundant living as a senior is no longer a secret. There are many aspects to enhancing health and vitality, such as nourishing your body with healthy foods, getting quality sleep, and maintaining meaningful relationships. However, one of the most important and recurring themes of aging gracefully is exercise.