I’m too old. I have too many aches and pains.
Myths like these prevent many seniors from enjoying the benefits of exercise.
The National Institutes of Health tells us that just 30% of people ages 45-64 engage in regular physical activity. That number drops to 15% for ages 65-74 and just 5% for those 85 and older.
The reality is there’s no such thing as too old to exercise. When done correctly, it can actually help with pain relief and management of chronic conditions like diabetes. Even people with limited mobility can exercise safely and effectively.
Want even more good news? Exercise may actually help you stay independent longer with everyday activities like tying shoes, working in the yard or playing with grandchildren.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that one in four adults 65 and older experience a fall each year.
Many older folks worry that exercise will increase the risk of falling, when the exact opposite is true. Regular physical activity can actually improve your sense of balance.
Here are just a few exercises that may help with balance:
- Standing on one foot for a few seconds — just be sure to stand next to a sturdy chair or countertop to support yourself!
- Squats, leg lifts or other lower body exercises
- Heel-to-toe walking
- Tai Chi
Flexibility makes a big difference in lots of activities, from getting dressed to driving. It keeps your muscles limber for maximum freedom of movement.
Stretching should be included every time you exercise. Begin with a few minutes of walking or biking to warm up your muscles and reduce the risk of injury.
- Upper body stretches can include your back, chest, arms and shoulder rolls.
- Lower body stretches can target your quadriceps (front of the thigh), hamstrings (back of the thigh) and calves.
- Yoga is another excellent activity for improving flexibility.
Cardio exercise helps you maintain overall fitness and endurance. It gives you energy and benefits your heart, lungs and circulatory system.
Good examples of cardio or endurance exercise include brisk walking, swimming, biking, dancing or playing tennis. Choosing activities you enjoy will make it easier to stick with it!
- Perform at least 30 minutes of endurance exercise every day.
- If you’re a beginner, start with 10-15 minutes and increase as your fitness level improves.
- Warm up with light activities such as walking before moving to more intense exercises like jogging.
- Exercise at moderate intensity and don’t overdo it — you should be able to carry on a conversation.
- Gently stretch your muscles when you finish.
Resistance training helps you retain muscle mass as you age. You may also have an easier time with activities like climbing stairs and carrying groceries.
Good options include dumbbells, resistance bands or your own body weight.
Strength training should be done on non-consecutive days to give your muscles time to recover. Work all muscle groups, including your legs, chest, back, shoulders, arms and core.
- Warm up with light cardio, such as walking.
- Good form is essential for safety and effectiveness. Start with light weights or no weights at all to focus on doing the exercises correctly.
- Start with one set of 10 or 15 repetitions. Add more sets and increase the amount of weight as the exercises become easier.
If you’ve never lifted weights before, work with a trainer to show you the proper techniques. Look for someone with experience working with seniors.
Always check with your doctor to address any medical issues before starting a new exercise program. Ask if there are any exercises you should avoid or if any modifications would be appropriate.
Are you or a loved one dealing with a life-limiting or terminal diagnosis? At Crown Hospice in Victoria, Texas, we’re here to help you maintain the highest possible quality of life.
If you need information about hospice or palliative care, please contact us online or call (361) 575-5900.