What are senior fitness exercises and why should we bother to do them? Will the benefits be greater than the effort?
In many ways the exercises don't change much from our pre-senior years. Just a bit gentler and with less pounding testosterone for the guys … as pragmatism and pain avoidance overtakes pride!
As we age our muscles get weaker and tendons get stiffer so the main aim of exercising is to arrest the rot.
Benefits of Regular Exercise:
- Helps repair the years of neglect and damage.
- Releases endorphins to make you feel good … with much less pain and effort mind altering drugs do the same thing!! Some downsides though!
- Reduces you chance of a stroke by lowering your risk of heart disease and bad cholesterol.
- Lowers or stabilises high blood pressure. Makes daily tasks that bit easier by increasing flexibility and preserving your range of motion.
- Helps the body's repair system after an accident or illness.Strengthens the immune system; you get sick less often and you recover more quickly.
- Improves sleep quality.
So the overall objective is to be able to get more enjoyment out of our life. To reduce the risk of falling and breaking bones, or having a heart attack and to keep up with the grandkids!
What senior fitness exercises are best … which ones have the greatest return for effort?
For a balanced all round program you should have a routine that covers elements of cardio endurance, building or maintaining strength, stretching, core strength and balance.
The most important fitness element is getting your heart pumping by getting your big muscles moving. Walking, jogging (walk/run), rowing, skipping, or riding a bike all work.
Another activity that qualifies for endurance training is playing with the grand children.
Or if your grandkids are not available any kids down at the park will do… this has an added benefit of being gratefully appreciated by their mothers!!
The target - at least 3 times a week for a minimum of 30 minutes.
Building and maintaining muscle makes day to day tasks a little easier and helps makes bones stronger and more dense … the added benefit, it breaks down fat.
The best strength builder is progressive resistance weight training. These strength senior fitness exercises don't require a visit to the gym. A set of dumbbells or resistance bands at home will do the trick … if you need more weight use a chair or bottles filled with water.
High reps and low weight is all you need.
Stretching, core strength and balance
Stretching and balance with yoga, pilates or tai chi, are critical parts of any exercise program and become more important as you age.
These types of exercise build poise, posture, flexibility, coordination, a range of motion, and balance. While connecting with the internal spirit - the yin of your exercise regime.
Good Nutrition is the perfect complement to exercise
For complete health, good nutrition goes hand in hand with your regular senior fitness exercises. No extremes, fancy diets or pills. Having and staying with, a normal diet, and a normal pattern of eating, is the best way to handle nutrition.
Let common sense prevail, healthy food is your mothers healthy … plenty of vegetables and fruit, limited red meat and no fast foods. With any alcohol consumption in the low to moderate range.
Starting a program.
At any time of your life there's no excuses for not exercising. Now is the perfect time to get your body into shape!
If you're in shabby shape don't try and repair the damage over night. It took a long time to get where you are now, so take it slow and easy.
You don't want to do too much too soon or you'll injure yourself.
Most people don't stay with an exercise program long enough to enjoy the benefits. Instead they start out too hard, get sore or injured and quit, then later feel guilty for quitting and start up again too hard … and the cycle repeats itself!
Start by easy walking, two or three times a week with a before and after stretching routine. Once you start to feel comfortable with this, increase the time and the number of times a week. Then after a few weeks you can add the weight training.
Alternate exercise types such as endurance one day and then a relaxing yoga or pilates session the next. This way, your body can recuperate after working hard. Finally, keep yourself hydrated and don't push yourself if you don't feel well.
"If you don't know where you're going, how will you know when you get there?"
Keep a record of your training and your progress. A tape measure will be fine! Don't be obsessed with your weight - slightly overweight and fit is far better than thin and unfit.
It's been said that all round fitness is a goal rather than a reality … I rather see it as a journey, a never ending journey taken a day at a time.
The ideal amount of time for your senior fitness exercises will vary depending on the type of activity, intensity level, and your goals and abilities.
More is not always better. Everything in moderation is the key to good health and remember to have fun.