A large percentage of senior citizens find it hard to exercise due to joint pains and lack of strength and flexibility.  This is quite serious because the aging population today has the highest number of cases of lifestyle diseases that can be easily eliminated by regular physical activity.

Exercising regularly can reduce pain and stiffness, increase energy levels, improve cognitive abilities and strengthen muscles.  Elderly people who exercise are more mobile and less prone to injuries.  They need more endurance, strengthening, balancing and stretching exercises to be able to perform optimally and maintain a healthy life.  Below are some of the most effective exercises that senior citizens can embrace to help them lead an active life.

Swimming
Swimming is one of the most popular forms of endurance exercises. Endurance exercises simply increase the breathing and heart rate for a longer period.  They are known for their key role in maintaining a healthy heart and circulatory system.

  • Swimming allows seniors to get in a better shape without adding too much stress and strain on the body.
  • It is a good exercise for those who have pain in the joints because it is not weight-bearing.  It keeps the pressure off the hips, knees and spine, enabling seniors to exercise without any discomfort.
  • Swimming is also a good option for people who want to increase flexibility, improve muscle strength and boost mental health.  They can participate in water aerobics such as walking in the swimming pool and dancing.  They can also do water resistance exercises such as arm curls, leg swings and calf raises.

Balance Exercises
About 33 percent of people aged 65 years and above fall every year.  This percentage increases significantly with age.

  • The risk of falls can be greatly reduced through balance exercises.  Seniors can try balancing exercises such as standing on one foot, side leg raises, balance walks, back leg raises and walking heel to toe.
  • It is advisable to hold onto a sturdy chair when doing the exercise, especially for those who feel unsteady.
  • Exercises can be done at intervals of 10 seconds for about 30 minutes and can be gradually increased as the person gains more balance.

Walking
Walking is a form of endurance as well as a balancing exercise.  Walking for even 20 to 30 minutes can cause significant changes in the body.

  • It lowers the risk of blood clots, a common problem among older people.
  • It improves blood flow, leading to lower blood pressure and reduced risk of developing heart disease.
  • Walking also reduces the effects of osteoporosis, lightens moods, lowers weight and improves sleep.

Studies show that seniors who walk for about one hour each morning are more likely to eliminate insomnia than those who don’t.

Yoga
Yoga is a form of stretching exercise.  It helps elderly people maintain flexibility and improve blood flow.  Yoga also helps reduce stress and anxiety, improves mental performance and reduces the risk of developing diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.

Yoga makes seniors feel good throughout, leading to an improved sense of well-being and stronger relationships.  There are different yoga poses for seniors.  One pose involves standing tall with the big toes locked and heels together while taking deep breaths.  An effective yoga session takes 30 minutes or more.

Strengthening Exercises
Strengthening exercises help to build muscles and boost the rate of metabolism in the body.  These exercises also improve bone strength, helping seniors become more independent.

Strengthening exercises include lifting free weights, using resistance bands and squatting.  One can do arm raises to strengthen the shoulder muscles, chair stands to strengthen stomach and thigh muscles or bicep curls to strengthen the muscles in the upper arm.

The exercises discussed above can help seniors become healthier, more stable and stronger and reduce the possibility of developing common lifestyle diseases like insomnia and stiff joints.  For optimal results, it is best to always stay hydrated while exercising, eat well and eliminate negativity and stress.

For more information, visit Careworks.

Author:  Lia Crispell, CRNP

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