Exercise is beneficial for people of all ages, but for older adults, regular physical activity can help improve coordination, balance and flexibility – issues often associated with aging. Exercise can also boost memory and mood, prevent bone loss, and lower the risk of heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis. And these are just some of the health benefits.
When starting an exercise program, many older adults are concerned about overdoing it and the risk of injury. If it’s been a long time since you’ve engaged in regular exercise, it’s wise to talk to your doctor before beginning an exercise regimen. Begin slowly, perhaps with just five or 10 minutes of activity at a time. While it’s normal to experience minor soreness or stiffness, if something becomes painful, stop exercising. As you become more limber and comfortable, increase the amount of time that you exercise.
Older adults often want to know what types of exercise they should do. It’s important to remember that physical activity doesn’t have to be strenuous. Health benefits can be achieved with moderate activity on a consistent basis. For stretching and maintaining flexibility, yoga and Pilates are good choices. Both improve core body strength and stability.
Simply lifting hand weights at home will help build strength. If you don’t have commercial weights, filling soup cans or milk jugs with sand works just as well. Exercises for balance are recommended for older adults too. One easy exercise for improving balance is to stand on one leg for 10 seconds. Be sure to stand on a flat surface, and if you feel unsteady, use a heavy chair or stable object for support. Tai chi exercises are another good option for balance and stability.
Aerobic, weight-bearing exercise such as walking, jogging and dancing is also recommended. Some experts recommend 150 minutes of aerobic activity each week for most adults. That’s just 20 minutes a day. Walking and light jogging are great options because they benefit the cardiovascular system, work large muscle groups and help manage weight.
Try a variety of activities to discover what you like best. The most important thing is to get moving and find time to exercise regularly.