Is it safe for senior citizens to exercise? Absolutely! A common misconception about aging is that one has to avoid moving around as he/she grows older to prevent injuries and accidents. This is very misleading. Bear in mind that a sedentary lifestyle will lead to various long-term complications, no matter what your age is.
Exercise is a crucial element to staying fit and healthy. Seniors, in particular, should strive to engage in around 150 minutes of light to moderate physical activity every week to yield full benefits. Of course, you’re free to ramp up the minutes as you see fit.
Sadly, there aren’t too many guidelines when it comes to fitness for senior citizens. Most of the guides and courses regarding fitness are geared toward a younger audience that wants to boost strength, build muscle, lose fat, or a combination of all of them. There’s not much information on how aging adults can exercise safely and effectively.
This lack of knowledge can be quite intimidating and limiting for many people. After all, jumping into fitness is not something you can easily do, especially if you’re someone aged over 65 who is unsure of what exercises can help them achieve their fitness goals.
Fortunately, we’re here to help. Keep reading to learn more about which exercises are safe for seniors, how to reap the full benefits, and as a bonus, some physical activities to avoid.
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10 Safe, Effective Exercises Seniors Should Perform Regularly for Overall Health and Wellness
Variety is the key to consistency in fitness. Admittedly, performing the same workouts every day for hours on end is not something that appeals to anyone, no matter what age group they belong in. To ensure you stick to your routine, make it as exciting as possible by adding in multiple exercises and physical activities such as:
1. Brisk Walking and Light Jogging
Brisk walking and light jogging are perhaps the simplest, most efficient exercises for seniors on this list. They require no equipment and you can do them anywhere. Whether you’re staying at a relative’s place in another state or are simply at home, all you need are a pair of rubber shoes and clear roads to run around in.
They’re relatively low-impact as well. Even those suffering from mild knee or hip issues may be able to walk for a couple of miles without triggering joint inflammations or flare-ups.
For maximum health benefits, use this time to do a bit of meditation and self-reflection as well. Instead of playing loud music, put on some gentle sounds then focus on your breathing and footsteps while walking/jogging. Studies show that mindfulness meditation is easier to integrate with brisk walking than other more strenuous activities.
Many beginners are under the impression that yoga is done solely to improve body flexibility. Yes, performing yoga stretching exercises is a great way to support mobility, but it’s also an excellent way to lose a few extra pounds. Depending on the type of yoga poses you do, you could burn anywhere from 200 to 400 calories per one-hour session.
Yoga is the perfect exercise for those suffering from mobility issues. Not only are they one of the most low-impact activities available, but they’re designed to improve flexibility by loosening tight joints and muscles.
3. Water Aerobics
Water aerobics has always been a popular physical activity among seniors. It’s simple, efficient, and most importantly, safe. The goal here is to perform various exercises while your body is submerged in water. Ideally, you should be about neck-deep in water.
Some exercises you can perform for water aerobics include:
- Dumbbell Exercises: You can perform an array of dumbbell exercises in the pool. Not only will it be easier to move your limbs around in the water, but you’ll also remove any risk of dropping heavy dumbbells on the floor by accident.
- Jogging: Walking and light jogging are both safe, low-impact exercises. However, running the same route regularly can be very boring. Challenge yourself with aqua jogging.
- Leg Lifts: Aqua leg lifts are ideal for those who want to strengthen their core but do not have the hip flexibility nor joint mobility to perform them normally. The water supports your limbs throughout the movement.
- Squats: Are bodyweight squats too easy? Take things up a notch by doing underwater squats. The added water resistance will make it harder for your legs to push the body out of the water. This is much safer than squatting with weights.
4. Resistance Bands and Light Dumbbell Training
Resistance bands and dumbbells are not suitable for seniors planning on exercising for the first time. Advanced strength training moves should only be performed by trained, knowledgeable individuals who have prior experience with weightlifting. Remember, this is a fairly strenuous exercise.
If done properly, however, not only strength training with dumbbells and resistance bands is a solid way to burn fat fast, boost overall power, and increase lean muscle mass. Resistance training yields results faster than bodyweight exercises do.
5. Basic Calisthenics
If dumbbells/resistance bands are too strenuous and water aerobics don’t appeal to you, opt for calisthenics exercises. Bodyweight training is an exercise regimen where you use your weight as resistance. Some basic calisthenics exercises that are safe for seniors to perform include squats, push-ups, pull-ups, and sit-ups.
Pro Tip: Ramp up the intensity by doing more reps. Similarly, you can also try looking for more challenging variations.
Pilates exercises are great full-body movements that simultaneously work with multiple muscle groups. They’re perfect for balanced development and training. A session of Pilates can help strengthen lean muscle mass, improve overall balance, increase core strength, and support mobility.
Swimming is a great low-impact exercise that increases lean muscle mass, boosts strength, supports mobility, and strengthens lung capacity. To ensure safety, make sure you swim in senior-friendly pools. Avoid the Olympic-sized ones were competitive swimmers practice in. Also, always stay in the slow lanes.
What makes cycling so cool is it’s easy to incorporate into one’s lifestyle. Rather than setting aside a specific number of hours daily for your cycling session, you can opt to bring your bike wherever you go.
Ride a bike instead of driving or taking public transportation. Use it as your main mode of transportation and you’re guaranteed to rack up a good amount of miles by the end of the month.
9. Stair Climbing
Stair climbing is an underrated yet very effective exercise. If you scale a five-story building up and down ten times, you’ll be able to burn upward of 500 calories. Although, seniors with joint pain might want to avoid this exercise. As effective as it is, climbing stairs can be pretty rough on the knees and hips.
10. Kegel Exercises
You don’t do kegel exercises to look good, but rather, you do them to feel good. Performing kegel exercises is a great, efficient way to improve your overall sex life. Women who regularly do kegel exercises will be able to climax and orgasm despite old age, while men that strengthen their kegel muscles can support prostate health and combat erectile dysfunction.
Exercises Seniors Should Generally Avoid
Having the motivation to stay fit and healthy is great, but you should remember your physical capacity as well. Don’t push your body to do anything it can’t. Performing excessively strenuous and intense workouts will do more harm than good. On that note, here are physical activities we don’t recommend to seniors:
- Powerlifting: Do not use barbells. Stick to light dumbbells and resistance bands when weight training.
- Sprint Training: Sprints are too strenuous for most seniors to perform.
- Rock Climbing: Don’t do rock climbing unless you’re a skilled, experienced climber. This activity is too dangerous.
- HIIT exercises: High-intensity interval training involves a lot of jumping, which is very hard on the knees.
- Long-Distance Running: Unless you’ve been running marathons your whole life, avoid long-distance running.
Important: If you are still unsure of what your physical capacity is, consult with a medical professional. This is especially important for patients with preexisting conditions. Ask them about any medicine or supplement you should—or shouldn’t—be taking as well.
Overall, your goal should be to create a unique workout plan that matches your personal needs and fitness goals. Don’t make the mistake of copying a random regimen online. Remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach that will help you achieve a fit, healthy, and strong senior body.
Don’t be afraid to mix up your options. There’s no reason why you should only stick to one or two exercises. As we mentioned earlier, variety makes workout programs more exciting, and exciting workout programs are much easier to commit to in the long run.
Also, make sure you make an effort to improve other aspects of your lifestyle as well. Clean up your diet, get rid of any vices you still have, start taking vitamins and follow a healthy diet program. It doesn’t matter if you’re a young, muscular 20-year-old bodybuilder or a recently retired 65-year-old senior, no amount of exercise will offset a poor lifestyle.
What are your favorite exercises? Share your senior-friendly workout routine with us in the comment section below!