10 of The Best Exercises for Seniors

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The U.S. Centers for Disease and Control are in the business of tracking statistics, so you can believe them when they categorically state that reduced physical activity can do more harm than good, especially when it comes to the health of senior citizens.

Physical activity is a critical component for maintaining strength and stamina in seniors, yet studies show that people over the age of 75 tend to abandon physical activities for reasons that include poor health, lack of interest and fear of falling.

Don’t become a statistic if that happens to be your mindset! Your independence, mental and physical health are all at risk. Undertake any of the exercises featured below and you can reduce your heart disease risk, keep your blood pressure numbers down and fight cancer and diabetes.

You don’t have to sweat like a leotard-clad TV aerobics instructor. A leisurely stroll around a local park or time spent on your bike can keep you healthy and happy well into your 90s and perhaps beyond!


Walking

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Recruit a buddy. It is harder to cancel a walk when a friend waits for you. Start by walking at a comfortable pace for 10 minutes. Increase your time and distance without pushing too hard. Walk every day and you’ll feel the difference.


Cycling

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Bicycling can slow the aging process, says Bicycling.com’s Allison Goldstein. If scientific jargon doesn’t frighten you, this Wiley Online Library summary describes how cells stay “younger” when senior cyclists keep doing what they love. If these facts don’t inspire you to wipe the cobwebs off you bike, nothing will. Consider choosing a senior-friendly bicycle.


Hiking

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Take up hiking after conditioning your leg muscles. They recommend slowly increasing seated leg extensions, standing leg curls and standing hip abductions over time. The New England Journal of Medicine cites an 87-year-old woman who spent 10 weeks increasing her leg strength until it had been increased by 113-percent. Your next task? Find a trail!


Swimming

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Jump in. Swimming remains a safer exercise alternative to walking since there’s no danger of falling. Seniors benefit from the absence of gravity so weak joints, muscles and bones can move freely while they are toned and exercised properly minus the pain and aches. More on why swimming is perfect for older people you can read here. You’ve got a swimsuit, right?


The Gym

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Hit the gym. Nothing compares to doing squats, and as your mom probably told you, some things in life are best seen rather than read. This YouTube video shows a personal trainer working with a senior in order to help him tone those muscles:

Bookmark this video and you can emulate these moves and instructions by propping your device up during your gym time.


Aerobics

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Most seniors recall Jane Fonda showing up on DVDs in leotards in the 1960s, screaming encouragement at her at-home viewers. Fast forward. These days, even the Mayo Clinic extols the virtues of aerobic exercise for the Social Security crowd.


Yoga

We don’t want to complicate your life if this is the exercise choice you want to adopt, but are you aware of the fact that there are 8 styles of yoga from which to choose? Health care resource Silver Sneakers details all 8, so you can choose the type most likely to benefit your body and mind.


Pilates

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Discover Pilates. It’s “a gentler way to stay fit,” says Ken Endelman, Founder and CEO of Balanced Body Inc. Pilates is a low-impact program focusing on abdominal muscles that keep seniors healthy rather than stressing joints and risking injury. Moves are made from reclining or sitting positions and regular sessions can positively impact the range of motion and balance. Endelman believes that seniors with Parkinson’s disease and Multiple Sclerosis may benefit from Pilates most of all.


Tai Chi

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Tai Chi, the ancient Asian art, is so simple to master, even newbies learn moves very quickly. Great for improving balance and strength, Tai Chi studies at the University of Toronto credit this form of exercise with helping people suffering from conditions like heart failure, osteoarthritis, breast cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Using this as your preferred exercise could put you ahead of the curve. Here you can read more about the benefits of Tai Chi for seniors.


Stretching

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There is no single stretching technique. Who knew? This web page offers directions if stretching is your preferred form of exercise. Bookmark the page or visit Silver Sneakers where video footage demonstrates stretching moves if you tend to learn things better by seeing how things are done rather than reading about them.


Why just one exercise method may not be your wisest move

As many seniors are willing to attest, not everyone counting down the decades accrues wisdom along life’s road. Some folks need to be reminded that for every recommendation, there’s likely an opposing view offering enough substantiation to make a perspective valid. For that reason, it’s important to tell you that by adopting more than one exercise, you could like exercising more–especially if you tend to get bored and give up easily.

Cross-training is a concept that has gotten so much buzz, it’s become trendy. There are valid reasons to consider the logic of cross-training, says Dr. Bryant Stamford, a physiology professor at the University of Louisville, Kentucky. By mixing exercises, seniors stay interested, reduce their risk of injury and do a better job of toning the entire body than is possible by adopting only one form of exercise.

“Seniors can develop customized routines that fit within their abilities and interests. Cross-trainers ideally integrate aerobic exercises (swimming, jogging or biking), anaerobic exercises (weight training), and flexibility exercises (yoga or tai chi) in the course of a day’s exercise,” says Dr. Warren A. Scott, M.D., sports medicine chief at Kaiser Permanente in Santa Clara, California (http://www.ec-online.net/Knowledge/Articles/crosstraining.html). Don’t be surprised if you discover that cross-training is the fitness plan that works best for you.


Daily activity for seniors recommended by Drs. Scott and Stamford

  • Day 1: Brisk walking with hand weights; stretching; upper bodyweight training
  • Day 2: Jogging; stretching; lower bodyweight training
  • Day 3: Swimming; yoga
  • Day 4: Bicycling; rowing or cross-country skiing; stretching
  • Day 5: Brisk walking; upper bodyweight training or circuit weight training
  • Day 6: Jogging at a varied pace; stretching.
  • Day 7: Day of rest or walking comfortably; yoga.

It’s your body and your life, so no matter which plan you adopt, making an effort to do something each day is the secret to success. You have a lot to live for and need those extra years to accomplish everything on your bucket list. Customize a plan that works for you and don’t forget to reward yourself for keeping your body in the best shape ever. You might just become a role model for seniors who are as eager as you to live life in the active lane, and for all the right reasons.

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