Physical activity is essential for healthy aging. As we grow, our bodies change and our need for exercise increases. Researchers continually emphasize the importance of regular exercise for older adults, and why many should opt for an active lifestyle rather than a sedentary one.
By strengthening the body, older adults can prevent or delay age-related diseases and live a longer, healthier life. Keep reading to learn the benefits of exercise, ways to improve strength for older adults and the top activities to increase strength, flexibility and stamina.
The Benefits of Exercise in Older Adults
There are so many health benefits of exercise, especially for older adults. Exercise can improve the body, mind and emotional well-being. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), all older adults can appreciate these benefits, even those with conditions like heart disease, obesity, arthritis and high blood pressure.
Some of the benefits associated with exercise in later life include:
- More independence: Regular exercise can help older adults maintain their independence. Research shows that older adults who exercise are less likely to depend on others for help with tasks like bathing, walking, cooking, eating or using the restroom.
- Better balance: Older adults are often hospitalized for fall-related injuries. By exercising regularly, older adults are 23% less likely to experience falls, preventing emergency room visits and serious injuries.
- Disease delay and prevention: Age-related diseases like heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis can shorten one’s life and decrease their quality of living. Fortunately, adopting an active lifestyle can prevent these diseases for those at risk or alleviate symptoms for people already living with them.
- Improved brain function: Research shows that physical and mental health are closely related and exercise can improve cognitive function in older adults. Just simple exercises can sharpen the mind to ward off age-related cognitive diseases like dementia, Alzheimer’s and depression.
Best Exercises for Older Adults
The CDC notes those aged 65 and older need at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise at least five days a week, two days of strength exercises and three days of balance training to reap the physical and mental health benefits.
Try these strength, aerobics and flexibility exercises to achieve the many health benefits:
Aerobic exercises can improve lung health and prevent heart disease. Moderate-intensity aerobic workouts for older adults include:
- Walking: Walking is an excellent form of cardio for older adults. Modify this activity to match the pace, distance or time that feels right to you.
- Cycling: Whether using an outdoor bicycle or a stationary bike, cycling can increase blood flow, benefit the heart and lungs and help relieve joint or muscle pain.
- Dancing: Moving the body through continuous dance is a fun and enjoyable form of cardio. Zumba, tango or line dancing are all exciting activities to try alone or with friends. These dances can improve a person’s balance and strengthen several muscle groups simultaneously.
Strength training can help improve bone density and prevent osteoporosis in old age. It can also strengthen muscles and help older adults move around without the help of others.
Try these simple strength exercises for older adults:
- Bridge: One of the best core workouts for elderly adults is a bridge. To do a bridge, lay on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground. Raise your hips and hold the position for three seconds. Repeat this 10 times.
- Sit to stand: Start by sitting in a chair. When you’re ready, stand up and then sit back down repeatedly. Repeat this exercise 10 times daily to help prevent the need for assistance in the future, such as sitting on a low couch or the toilet.
- Side planks: This exercise can strengthen the shoulders and improve core stability. To practice it, individuals should lay on their side, propped by their elbow directly under the shoulder. Next, they should lift their hips off the floor so their body forms a straight line and hold the position as long as possible before repeating it on the other side.
Flexibility is essential for mobility and stretching the body to reach its full range of motion. Flexibility exercises can decrease our energy costs while standing and walking as we age.
Try the following exercises to improve flexibility:
- Knee extension stretch: This exercise can help straighten knees while walking to prevent a crouched gait. Start by sitting and placing your heel on a low stool in front of you. Gently lean forward until you feel resistance in the back of your knee. Hold this pose for one to three minutes, and then repeat on the other side.
- Yoga: Several yoga poses can improve flexibility and promote balance, such as the downward dog position. To achieve this position, start on your hands and knees. Tuck your toes under, lift your hips and back away from the floor until your body forms a triangle. Stay in this position for five to eight breaths and lower back down. Repeat two more times for the best results.
Workout Tips for Older Adults
As you now know, physical activity presents several short and long-term health benefits. Older adults should make exercise a priority to keep themselves motivated.
A few tips to increase physical activity include:
- Exercise with friends: Make exercise a social activity to stay motivated. For instance, elderly adults might try dance classes or going on a walk with a friend during lunch.
- Make exercise fun and enjoyable: Older adults should try various exercises to keep their interest alive. Some fun exercise games for elderly adults include croquet, chair soccer, dance and cornhole.
- Take it slow: Workouts don’t need to be strenuous for individuals to achieve health benefits. Try breaking up exercises into 15-minute intervals twice a day. For instance, older adults might try two 15-minute walks a day, one in the morning and one in the evening.
- Find ways to fit exercise into the day: Combine physical activity with a task that’s already part of the person’s day, such as walking the dog, taking the stairs at work or doing household chores.
- Keep track of progress: One of the best ways to stay motivated is to measure a person’s exercise progress and celebrate successes. Use a journal to track daily physical activity, find ways to increase it and monitor improvements over time.
Improve Your Health and Wellbeing With Corewood Care
Exercise can improve cognitive function and prevent illnesses for older adults. Older adults can gain independence, increase their energy and improve brain function with physical activities.
At Corewood Care, our primary goal is to provide exceptional, high-quality care for elderly patients. Our caregivers can help you follow a regular exercise plan and encourage and motivate you to work out. They can provide excellent recommendations for personal trainers, physical therapists and the like who will coordinate these care management services for you. These services are designed to help clients navigate life’s challenges and live a more comfortable, graceful life.
To learn more about our care management services, we invite you to get in touch with us today.