It is common for senior citizens to think that once they have passed a certain age, it is necessary that they slow down with physical exercise and take it easy. What if we told you that this idea is wrong? A lot of people tend to take aging for granted and think that the decline of physical ability is simply a result of getting older. However, there’s more to it than just that.
This decline is, in fact, the result of becoming less active as aging kicks in. The advice to take it easy is actually detrimental to our health, as it is exactly what makes aging have a larger effect on the body. The truth about the body is that it does a much better maintenance job when it undergoes regular exercise and has proper nutrition.
If you are a senior citizen, and are aware that slowing down is not the way to go, here are some tips on venturing into the world of fitness.
First things first
Before you get started with fitness exercises, you need to get in touch with your doctor. It is essential that they know that you are about to increase the level of physical activity. This is particularly true if you suffer from issues such as shortness of breath, bone problems, chest pain, a heart condition or you are taking meds for your blood pressure. You need to know what your limitations are. In case that you have remained somewhat active until now, you might have an idea what your strengths and weaknesses are. Otherwise you need a proper assessment of your state and abilities.
You should know that even bodies that are limited by being attached to wheelchairs or mobility scooters can benefit from a set of exercises that can truly help them. This includes cardiovascular exercises that boost endurance.
It is also important that you enjoy yourself. If you truly want to reap the benefits of physical exercise, you need to like what you’re doing, which is the first step in making it a regular activity. If you overdo it from the get-go, you will probably lose the will to keep doing it. It is also a good idea to keep an exercise journal to follow up on your progress, and to have short term and long term goals that you want to achieve.
What happens to our body as we age?
The first thing that happens with age is the decrease in muscle mass, which further adds to the decline of the metabolic rate. You should know that it’s never too late to start exercising your muscles. Proper exercise, such as lifting weights, maintains muscle strength and helps you keep proper weight, strengthens your bones, and benefits your balance.
The next thing that suffers is your endurance. But this can also be helped with proper exercise, which includes activities that boost your heart rate and breathing for a certain period of time. The exercises include walking, swimming, cycling, and the like.
Flexibility is the next thing that is affected by age. The right exercise can enable you to move more freely, and do more things. This can be achieved by exercising your knees, ankles, hips, elbows, wrists, shoulders and neck.
Next, there is balance, which in turn, often results in serious injuries like fracturing of the hip. With proper balance exercises combines with strength exercises, such issues can be avoided.
Finally, it’s bones and joints that suffer. There is a decrease in bone density which can result in osteoporosis. Furthermore, if you don’t move enough, your joints get stiff and weak. Lifting weights and other strength exercises can help fight this.
The benefits of strength exercises are making yourself stronger, enabling yourself to do daily tasks, and keeping your blood sugar at a healthy level. Furthermore, they are a great way to fight off osteoporosis, because they strengthen your bones. For starters, you should lift small weights (1 to 2 pounds) to do exercises such as chest presses, bicep curls and triceps extensions. On the other hand, you can make use of your own body’s weight by doing squats, lunges and push ups. The idea is to combine various exercises to boost the strength of your arms, legs, hips, back, chest and shoulders.
Flexibility exercises are a great way to prevent possible injuries. They are used to stretch your muscles and the connecting tissue around them. There is a wide variety of yoga exercises for flexibility that you can learn from yoga classes. The most basic exercise that you can do is stretching. This way you will enable yourself to move more freely and in a greater range. Before doing stretches, it is best that you warm up by walking. Then do each stretch slowly, holding the position for about 10 seconds. It is important that you breathe during this. It is important that the stretches don’t hurt. If you experience pain, then you are overdoing it.
In order to prevent yourself from falling and hurting yourself, you need to properly exercise with the goal to improve your stability and balance. This is where yoga exercises kick in again. When you are doing these exercises, you should hold onto something to support yourself, such as a chair or a table. You could also ask someone to support you, so that you don’t lose your balance. There is a lot of senior centers where you can take classes on balance and have someone help you out while you exercise.
When it comes to strength exercises, you can do modified push ups, which benefit your chest, shoulders and upper back.
- Stand in front of a wall, with your feet about 18 inches away.
- Lean forward, raise your arms at shoulder height, and place your palms on the wall.
- Bend your elbows slowly until you get as close to the wall as you can without straining.
- Push back to the starting position slowly. Repeat this 10 times.
As for flexibility, you can exercise by doing this simple neck stretch.
- Turn your head to the right slowly, until you feel it slightly stretching.
- Make sure that you don’t tilt your hear forward or backward.
- Stay like this up to 30 seconds.
- Slowly turn your head to the other side and hold for another 30 seconds.
- Do this again in each direction for three times.
Finally, when it comes to balance, try this simple exercise.
- Find a sturdy chair, and stand behind it.
- Place one hand on your hip and the other on the back of the chair.
- Slightly bend your left knee while you lift the leg up.
- Hold your leg like this for 10 seconds, and then relax.
- Repeat this 9 more times for this side of the body. Then switch to the other leg and do the same thing 10 times. When you see your balance improving, you can do the same exercise without holding on to the chair.
Fight off the detrimental effects of aging by venturing into the world of fitness. Take out at least 30 minutes out of your day to exercise, and it will greatly benefit your health. Do the exercises for your strength, balance and flexibility, which we have discussed in this article, for the best effects. Consult your doctor to know your limitations, and exercise regularly.
Chloe Smith is a fitness instructor and a part-time writer always willing to share advice. She is passionate about sustainability, cycling and leading a healthy life.