Exercise Tips for Seniors

Posted July 7, 2010 by

Many folks despair that they are too “far along” to adopt a healthy, fit lifestyle. This reasoning couldn’t be more incorrect—in fact, the older we get, the more important a healthy lifestyle becomes!

Why is exercise such a critical activity as we grow in age?  As we approach our 50s, a few negative factors come into play that were not present at a younger age. For one, we begin to lose muscle mass (on average) at the rate of 6% per decade (about five pounds) and we gain approximately 15 pounds of fat each decade to replace it.  When combined with an inactive lifestyle and poor nutrition, these factors can contribute to a wide array of degenerative conditions and disabilities, among them: obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, hypertension (high blood pressure) and osteoarthritis. Current studies indicate that even Alzheimer’s disease and certain cancers may be linked to a lack of activity as we age.

Maintaining a healthy weight is one of the best ways to avoid the onset of type 2 diabetes. Additionally, resistance training puts stress on both the muscles and the bones of our bodies. Just as your muscles become stronger when subjected to weight training, your bones grow stronger (and denser) as well. In other words, weight training is one of the most effective ways to slow osteoporosis. Active seniors are better able to take care of themselves, perform common household tasks, and remain mentally sharp. Improvements in muscular imbalances and bodily awareness will also help to avoid detrimental slips and falls that can cause broken bones, ruptured organs or worse!

Your fitness goals as an active senior are likely to be different than those of a youth athlete or bodybuilder. Thus, the key areas of training to focus on will be different for you than what’s touted by fitness magazines, websites and commercials that are geared towards these younger populations. You should focus on the following, in this order:

  • corrective stretching: one of the main contributors to pain during movement later in life is muscle imbalance, which causes your body to adopt an altered posture. Stretching will allow your body to return to its natural state and will keep you limber and flexible throughout your life.
  • balance training: as stated above, slips and falls are a major cause of injury to many seniors. The best way to avoid these occurrences is to improve your balance and bodily awareness.
  • endurance exercise: at least 25-30 minutes per day of brisk walking, bike riding, aerobics, recreational sports, swimming, etc is recommended to avoid many common health problems later in life.
  • core training: your core is the system that maintains the structure of your torso, both during movement and while at a stand-still. In addition to increasing your flexibility via stretching, you’ll want to ensure that the muscles of your core are strong and can handle supporting your body throughout the day.
  • resistance training: as stated above, resistance training will combat the degeneration of muscle and bone tissue that is common among those over 50 years of age. Focus should be placed on using a slow, controlled tempo and proper form during the lifts, rather than on maximizing the weight that is used.

Comments on Exercise Tips for Seniors »

  1. Luwung

    Great Post Ben. Aimed at me?