As we get older, it can be increasingly more difficult to integrate exercise into our daily lives. Because we may not have as much energy as we used to, our bodies may not be able to keep up with us. This can present challenges to achieving the exercise we need to thrive! In this article, you will learn how to overcome these obstacles with the best workout routine to fit into your life and promote your overall health and wellness as you age.
Importance of Exercise as We Age
According to Harvard Health, muscle mass, flexibility of movement, stamina, heart health, and strength decline at an increased rate after the age of 55. Some may assume this decline is inevitable, but as modern technology and medicine are proving, it is now known that much of this decline can be prevented and sometimes even reversed! How? One of the best ways to achieve optimal health as you age is through regular exercise. Endurance exercise, aerobic exercise, strength and resistance training, and yoga can promote recovery from injury and other physical challenges and decrease your risk of general decline.
Importance of a Routine
Having an exercise routine is important because it keeps you dedicated, turns your workouts into habitual practices, and lets your body rest as much as possible. It is recommended that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise, per week. This is best divided up into completing a workout every other day. The day in between workouts is your rest day and is vital to helping your muscles build back up.
Here are the best exercises for older adults.
Aerobic exercise can include running, walking, swimming, rowing, and cycling. This form of exercise is characterized by its working of your heart, or cardio (cardiovascular conditioning). During cardio exercise, your heart rate and your breathing rate will increase. As such, aerobic exercises promote heart health, lung health, and circulatory system function.
Here are some examples of aerobic exercises that are best for senior adults.
Water aerobics is a great option if your hips and knees have trouble keeping up with a lot of movement. Due to its low impact on joints, water aerobics allows you to reap all the benefits of cardio while preventing the joint injury or pain you would experience after something high-impact like running.
There are a variety of water aerobic exercises for seniors to perform.
Aqua jogging—this exercise is great for performing fast movements with low impact
Flutter kicking—this exercise promotes leg strength and mobility
Standing water pushups—at the edge of the pool, do a standing push-up to build arm muscle
Arm curls—these can build your arm muscle while protecting your elbows and wrists
- Leg lifts—this exercise builds leg muscle while helping you balance and reduce impact to your knees and hips
There are benefits to achieving proper cardio exercise through running, but walking is much easier on your joints and is low impact, so it reduces your risk of injury! Walking for just 30 minutes a day can substantially reduce your risk of disease or developing conditions such as diabetes, cancer, or depression. Walking also helps maintain bone structure. Here is a walking routine for older adults.
- Wear comfortable shoes that offer good support
- Walk as quickly as you can (without turning into a jog) for ten minutes
- After the first increment, slow down and rest for up to five minutes
- Repeat two more increments of walking fast
Riding your bike or cycling on a machine is also a great way to benefit from the cardiovascular aspect of this workout while being easy on your knees. If you have a cycling machine, try to alternate between faster and slower cycling. You can even work up to an incline!
Resistance training, or strength training, is any exercise that works a specific muscle. Resistance training builds muscle mass by stretching out your muscle fibers when you lift something. The biggest benefit of strength training is that it can benefit your independent living. It prevents muscle loss, which reduces your risk of injury from a fall, which can lead to a more independent life.
Body Weight Training
Bodyweight training is strength training using your body and gravity. If you have a hard time grasping or lifting heavy objects, bodyweight training might be ideals. There are a variety of bodyweight exercises you can do to target different muscles.
Here are some of the best bodyweight strength exercises for older adults that work your whole body.
Do ten pushups. If you need to scale them down, you can perform the push up on your knees or on a wall
Do ten squats. Keep your feet shoulder-width apart and keep your balance on your heels. You can do these over a chair for assistance
Do ten abdominal crunches. Lie flat on the floor or the couch and raise your upper body without moving your legs. To scale these down, you can do crunches from a leaning position on a couch or bed
- Complete three sets of this exercise. Allow yourself to rest for 30 seconds in between sets
Free Weight Training
Free weight exercises may be good for people who experience joint pain but can still lift heavy objects. This form of strength training is great for targeting more intense muscle growth. It has also been shown to soothe symptoms of diabetes, osteoporosis, depression, and joint pain.
Here are some weight-lifting exercises for you to try.
Bicep curl. Hold the weight down by your side, so your bicep is facing in front of you. Lift (or “curl”) the weight to the top of your arm while keeping your elbow in place
Overhead triceps extensions. Hold one end of a dumbbell with both hands. Lift the weight behind your head and press the dumbbell straight up as high as it will go. Move the weight down and repeat
- Bent-over row. Get on your hands and knees and use one hand at a time to hold a dumbbell, bring it to your chest, and release
Try and achieve 10 to 15 repetitions of the movement. Always start out smaller to see what your strength limit is. It is always best to scale things down if it means preventing injuries, so work up to higher weights gradually.
Strength Exercises to Avoid
There are some exercises to be wary of. Because of increased muscle loss and fragility, you may not be able to lift as much as you expect, and you may put an unhealthy strain on your muscles. If you’re over 65, you may want to avoid these exercises.
- Leg press
- Bench press
- High-intensity interval training
- Rock climbing
Another exercise for older adults is chair yoga. The benefits of yoga extend from the physical health world to the mental world as well. Yoga can help reduce stress, depression, and anxiety in older adults. By performing these yoga poses from a chair, you can reap all the benefits of yoga while protecting your joints and muscles. Here are some chair yoga poses to try!
Sit on the edge of your chair and plant your feet shoulder-width apart flat on the floor. Place your palms flat on your knees, inhale slowly, and arch your back, so you’re looking up at the ceiling. Hold this position until you exhale. As you let your breath out, arch your back the opposite way, so your head tucks into your neck. Repeat for five breaths.
High Altar Side Leans Pose
In order to perform this pose, sit at the edge of your chair with your feet shoulder-width apart. With your arms straight in front of your, interlace your fingers. Inhale and rotate your arms above you so they are reaching toward the ceiling. Lean your body to the right for three deep inhales and exhales, and then lean to the left for three deep inhales and exhales. You should feel a deep stretch in the sides of your abdomen.
Eagle Arms Pose
To perform this yoga exercise, sit on the edge of your seat with your feet shoulder-width apart. Stretch your arms out to each side and then bring them to meet in the middle, right in front of your face. Allow your arms to interlace with one another. Your elbows should be bent, sitting one on top of the other, and your palms should be pressed next to each other. Hold this pose for five breaths, untangle your arms, and repeat with the other arm on top.
Ankle to Knee Pose
Stay on the edge of your seat. Bring one foot up to sit on top of your other knee. It will look like you are about to cross your legs but keep bringing your foot to your knee. If you can feel this stretch deep in your inner thigh and hips, you can stop here and hold for five breaths. However, if you want a deeper stretch, slowly lean your body forward. Hold for five breaths and repeat with the other leg.
Making Your Routine
To integrate these forms of exercise into your daily life and form a workout routine, remember to alternate between days of exercise and days of rest.
Devote one day to aerobic exercise by walking or cycling for a total of 30 minutes. You can also visit your local pool or gym and partake in water aerobics there. The next day, you can rest. The following day, warm up with a few yoga poses and try to perform at least three sets of strength exercises. After another rest day, you can walk or cycle again, continuing this pattern each week. You can also devote entire days of exercise to just yoga if you’re experiencing muscle soreness or pain.
Finding an exercise routine that fits your lifestyle isn’t easy. As we age, it can be harder to move around, and it can become a challenge to keep doing the things we love, especially when it comes to exercise. However, understanding the basics of a workout routine and learning how to incorporate these exercises into your exercise life can have a positive impact on your physical and mental health. For even more wellness-boosting support, be sure to incorporate a daily multivitamin into your routine!