Finding ways to get exercise as you get older is a smart and easy way to stay fit and improve your health. Exercise is just as important in your older years as when you were younger.
Research shows that an exercise regimen offers a wealth of health benefits. One study found that adults ages 75 and older who exercised lived longer than older adults who didn't exercise. Another study discovered that older women who squeezed in resistance, or strength, training workouts each week improved their cognitive function.
It’s also well known that regular exercise can help to boost heart health, maintain a healthy body weight, keep joints flexible and healthy, and improve balance to minimize falls.
Exercise is not as time-consuming as you may think. For general health benefits, older adults need about 2½ hours of aerobic (walking, running, and other activities that get the heart pumping faster) activity per week, combined with muscle-strengthening activities at least two days per week.
Joining a gym and making use of the machines, trainers, and classes is one way to exercise. But you can also have fun there, meet new people, and do a variety of different activities that keep you healthy and strong.
Exercise actually comes in many forms, including activities that feel more like fun than hard work:
Dance. Sign up for a dance class with your spouse or a friend or carve out some dance time at home.
Go bowling. Join a bowling league or make a weekly date with some of your friends. If you have grandchildren, bring them along.
Rediscover a favorite sport. Whether you love the elegance of golf or the challenge of tennis, make time for these leisure activities. If possible, vary your activities over the course of each week to work different muscle groups.
Enjoy the great outdoors. When the weather cooperates, ride your bike, visit a local park for a hike, or simply go for a walk. These are all great exercises that get you outside and into the fresh air.
Get in the swim. Swimming is an excellent exercise choice, particularly if you have arthritis joint pain. Join a local fitness center with a pool and work in regular swims to meet your cardiovascular needs without straining your joints.
To help prevent falls, you also want to practice exercises that improve your balance. Yoga and tai chi fit the bill—and they will also help you manage stress, feel more relaxed, and improve muscle tone. Yoga or tai chi classes are widely available in many areas, from senior centers to the Y.
Taking some time to stretch every day can also help keep your joints flexible and keep you moving well. It’s also important to lift some light weights—canned goods from your cupboard are a fine substitute—or use a resistance band to tone your muscles.
Add a little “elbow grease” when doing chores and these regular activities will count as a workout:
Cleaning the house
Raking leaves in the yard
Mowing the lawn
Sweeping and dusting
Remember that getting older doesn't mean slowing down. You've got to keep moving to stay young at heart…as well as in mind, body, and spirit.