Exercise and nutrition are two of the most important parts of leading a healthy lifestyle, and that’s regardless of your age. However, as we age, our requirements change, mainly because regardless of gender, our bodies are changing too. In recent years, there has been a growing body of research that illustrates how much of a role regular exercise plays in seniors’ health. It also shows how exercising regularly and, in particular, aerobic exercises can positively affect seniors’ health compared to leading a sedentary lifestyle.
In this article, we’ll go over the importance and a couple of aerobic exercises that have been shown to benefit seniors. We’ll also conclude with a list of exercises that may not be good for a senior’s health so that readers can choose to avoid them.
The Benefits of Aerobic Exercises for Seniors
Just about everyone acknowledges that our biology tends to change as we become older. That’s why staying in shape often becomes increasingly more challenging. Younger people may not have to exercise as much, but for older people, it is mandatory, especially if they want to remain active through their golden years.
Many researchers and physicians that have studied the effects of exercises on senior health have determined that it is essential for seniors who want to remain active. However, the exercises need to be performed without overexertion. The right combination of exercises will result in longer and healthier life.
A couple of benefits associated with exercising include:
Seniors become more independent
Seniors, regardless of their age, who exercise regularly don’t need to depend on others for the most part. A Harvard Medical School study found that regular exercising helps promote older adults’ ability to cook, clean, walk, bath, and use the restroom unassisted. That is why exercising is seen as one of the best ways to maintain independence for seniors.
Helps to Improve Balance
Many older adults have a problem with balancing, and it isn’t uncommon for them to fall down, causing injury and hardship. It is estimated that an older adult is admitted to the emergency room every 11 seconds for a fall-related injury. Also, a senior dies every 19 minutes from a fall, according to stats from the National Council of Aging. Though falls are all different, some can cause other complex issues, which can be reduced by as much as 23% with regular exercise.
Regular Exercises Translate To More Energy
While it may seem strange that being inactive ends up making you feel tired, exercising, aka being active, gives you more energy. However, exercising leads to the production and release of endorphins which are essential for pain mitigation and give you a sense of well-being. The release of endorphins also combat stress hormones, make you feel more energetic, and sleep better.
Exercises Help Prevent Diseases
Regular exercising for older people can help them overcome depression, illnesses like osteoporosis and diabetes. Countless studies have shown that daily exercise can contribute to, if anything, preventing the unpleasant symptoms associated with these conditions if the person already has them. It can also make recovering from many illnesses easier since you have a much more robust immune system.
Positively Effects Brain Function
Over the years, one of the most remarkable benefits of science is the revelation that the mind and body are one or at least very closely linked. That’s why a healthy body will naturally mean a healthy mind, which is why regular exertion has been shown to improve cognitive health for seniors. The Alzheimer’s Research & Prevention Foundation did a study that showed that regular exercise reduces the risk of an older person developing Alzheimer’s disease and dementia by over 50%.
Which Are the Best Aerobic Exercises For Seniors
Now that we have established that exercise is important, especially for older adults, where should you begin? If you have not worked out in a long time, getting back to an active lifestyle can be a little daunting. Also, many of the exercises you were once doing, probably when younger, may not be the best idea to engage in now.
We advise all seniors to check with their physicians to ensure they are healthy enough to engage in regular exercises. A doctor can also advise which exercises may be best for their current level of health.
The popularity of hydro aerobics, more commonly referred to as water aerobics, has grown tremendously. It is a popular form of exercise amongst people of all ages. However, many people may not know that exercising in the water is ideal for people who have joint pain and arthritis since the buoyancy of water ensures less stress on the joints. Furthermore, water adds natural resistance, so you don’t need to use weights to improve flexibility, balance, and strength.
You can opt for exercises like flutter kicking, arm curls, aqua jogging, etc.
Like water aerobics, chair yoga is very low impact but helps improve muscle strength, flexibility, and balance, which are critical for a senior. It puts less stress on the joints and muscles compared to conventional forms of yoga.
Studies show that chair yoga can be highly beneficial for seniors’ mental health. People who engage in regular chair yoga have been shown to enjoy better sleep, complain of fewer bouts of depression, and have a general sense of feeling good.
Chair yoga exercises include seated cat stretch, overhead stretch, seated twist, and seated cow stretch.
It is popular for aerobic exercise, which was initially popular amongst the younger generation. However, it soon became the exercise of choice for seniors owing to its low impact nature. Pilates was developed over a century ago and helps with concentration, alignment, core strength, etc. It requires a few things like pilates balls, mats, and other inflatables to build strength without opting for higher impact exercises.
Pilates has both aerobic and anaerobic benefits, one of which is developing core strength and flexibility. Older people can engage in exercises like food slides, leg circles, mermaid movement, and step-ups, which get the heart rate up.
It is by far one of the most accessible and natural forms of exercise that anyone can do. Though seniors may find walking to be a challenge, that’s perhaps more challenging compared to other exercises depending on their health. That’s why the distance goals set will differ from one person to the next. The general population has a 10k steps target a day as advised by professionals. But for those who have a problem walking or have chronic joint pain, may have to settle for a smaller goal.
A study by PLOS One found that by walking 10k steps a day, a person can lower their chances of dying by 46%. Walking is healthy because it strengths the muscles, gets the heart going, consequently lowering the risk of diabetes, stroke and colon cancer, etc.
You will want to find a moderate trail and walk through the park. Maybe walk with a friend and try to beat the other. If walking gets boring, try listening to an audiobook for a bit of mental stimulation.
Body Weight Exercises
Many, if not all, older adults will complain of muscle loss, and it can be devastating. While aerobic exercises can help with heart health, it is just as important to retain muscle. Today, with an estimated third of seniors living with severe muscle loss, studies show that it can also lead to various hormonal issues and a decreased ability for the body to process protein.
One of the best ways to avoid these issues is to engage in bodyweight workouts. Bodyweight workouts can help to counteract the effects of muscle atrophy in the older population. However, the biggest selling point apart from that is bodyweight workouts are affordable. All you need is your body and the right workout clothing.
Good bodyweight workouts include sit-ups, squats, side-lying circles, and lying hip bridges.
Dumbbells can be used for both muscle building and aerobic exercises. Older people should focus on using dumbbells for both. You can increase the reps for each exercise to help get the heart rate up and burn fat. To build muscle, seniors can use heavier dumbbells and do fewer reps, like 10-12. The best thing about dumbbells is that it allows seniors to isolate and work on specific weak muscle groups.
Exercises That Should Be Avoided
While many of the popular mainstream workouts may come across as attractive, especially in the way that they are billed, they aren’t the best choice for seniors. Sure, they are great for young people who want to shed a few pounds and add muscle mass, but it puts a strain on the joints, which isn’t a good idea for the older population.
If you are over the age of 65, we’d strongly advise that you avoid exercises like bench presses, squats with weights, upright rows, long-distance running, leg pressing, power cleans, deadlifting, and High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).