Maintaining a level of physical fitness is important for your health, no matter your age. In your golden years, it is important to focus on workouts designed to help you build strength, maintain muscle mass, stay mobile, and improve balance and stability.
It is smart to check with your doctor before beginning a new fitness program, especially if you have any health concerns. In addition to maintaining your health, older adults also have to consider maintaining their quality of life outside of the gym. Beyond that, you are free to choose whatever you would like. Chances are, the best exercise for you is the one you enjoy the most. Here are some options:
1. Power Walking
Possibly the most fundamental physical activity, walking is often the most beneficial as it can greatly improve your health. Even if you can’t find the time to perform a structured workout, you likely have time to park farther from the supermarket door, take the long route wherever you need to go, or walk the dog. Even those in pain or with chronic conditions can find ways to increase their step count and experience the positive impact on their health.
People tend to forget about swimming as an aerobic activity, but it is often a perfect exercise for seniors. Whether you choose to swim laps, take a water aerobics class, or play with your grandkids, getting in the pool is a great way to increase your cardiovascular fitness while also strengthening your muscles.
In addition to physical health, swimming can help older adults keep their minds as sharp as their bodies. It does all this while putting minimal stress on your bones and joints, which is a major plus for men and women who have arthritis or osteoporosis.
3. Strength and Aerobic Classes
Group exercise is a fantastic way to break a sweat, have fun, and make new friends along the way. The social aspect of group exercise programs is hugely important when it comes to making exercise a habit, and increases activity levels in older adults in the long run. There are often many group exercise classes offered in senior living residences, from step aerobics to boot camps. If you are nervous about jumping into a new group activity, ask a family member or friend to sign up with you.
4. Yoga or Pilates
If you are interested in a more holistic approach to fitness, yoga and Pilates offer low-impact strength building options that help build muscle, aerobic fitness, balance, core stability, mobility, and flexibility. While both are gentle on your body’s joints, holding the postures and stretching helps to strengthen not only your muscles but also your bones.
If you are new to yoga, restorative-style classes are great places to start. Most gyms also offer Pilates classes designed for first-timers, which is especially important for those with physical limitations.
Another low-impact exercise, cycling is ideal for those who want to increase their leg strength, but can’t partake in other high-impact sports due to osteoporosis or joint issues. Cycling can also help improve cardiovascular health, metabolic health, function, and cognitive performance in older adults.
If you are new to cycling, purchasing a stationary bike for your home or taking a class at the gym are great ways to start. With stationary bikes, you will not have to worry about falls or needing to wear a helmet. If you have cycling trails near your house, consider scheduling a bike ride with a family member or a friend.
6. Weight Training
Many seniors experience severe muscle loss. Fortunately, you do not have to bench press your bodyweight to keep your muscles healthy. For many older adults, it is far safer to start with simple bodyweight exercises such as chair squats, single-leg stands, wall pushups, and stair climbing. Any small weight-bearing exercise will do a great job at keeping your body strong and ready to tackle everyday activities.
Resistance bands are another great option for toning your muscles. Your gym probably has some on hand, but these inexpensive and beginner-friendly exercise tools are easy to purchase and are perfect for at-home workouts as well.
Maintaining your fitness does not only support your health but also your social life. Thankfully, many senior communities such as Willamette Oaks strive to offer an array of amenities to foster physical health and social connections. This kind of environment will help you stay active and enjoy your golden years to their fullest.
Cindy Greenfield writes about Senior Health, Wellness and Life-Minded fulfillment. She facilitates and blogs for Cascade Group’s Assisted Living Community in Willamette.