Top 5 Popular Exercise Programs for Active Older Adults
Even if you’ve been physically active throughout your life, it is common for seniors to experience changes in their abilities with age. These changes may be due to chronic conditions, illness, injury, or medication side effects.
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Why Physical Activity is Essential to Healthy Aging
At any age, being physically fit is a wonderful gift to yourself and your loved ones. Still, there is a growing interest in targeted exercises for older adults for healthy aging. Unfortunately, “by age 75, about one in three men and one in two women engage in no physical activities,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Even with limitations on your movement, there are ways to stay fit, healthy and strong.
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Benefits of Exercise for Older Adults
Research results published in PubMed Central indicate a link between exercise and avoiding osteoporosis, a disease characterized by loss of bone mineral density (BMD), leaving bone porous and brittle. An example is an article that reviewed several studies, concluding that exercise can prevent BMD levels from decreasing and may help to prevent osteoporosis.
People with chronic, disabling diseases can leverage exercise to increase muscle strength and stamina. According to the CDC, appropriate physical activity also “reduces the risk of dying from coronary heart disease and of developing high blood pressure, colon cancer and diabetes.” People with arthritis report reduced joint swelling and pain commonly associated with arthritis.
Even if you appreciate the advantages of exercise for seniors over 65, motivation may be lacking. It’s hard to have an incentive when you’re stressed or saddened by life-changing events. However, being sedentary can magnify your troubles and lead to other problems. Conditioning your body has the opposite effect. Exercise reduces stress, anxiety and symptoms of depression while elevating your mood and sense of well-being.
Consult with Your Doctor
When you research exercise recommendations for older adults, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. There is a noted difference between low-impact and high-impact activities. Low-impact movement, like walking or hiking, requires at least one of your feet to remain on the ground at all times.
High-impact workouts such as running or jump roping put a greater impact on your muscles, joints, and feet. Consult with your doctor for recommendations on what level of activity is best for your unique and specific needs.
Below are some ideas to help you with this discussion. You may need to incorporate modifications into your routine to enhance the benefits and lower your risk of injury.
Top Five Exercises for Seniors Over 65
1. Community-based exercise programs for older adults
If you equate working out with boredom, the social aspect of community-based programs may appeal to you. Your town library, senior center, or retirement community may offer free exercise classes or host health events where you can meet other active older adults. Or you may want to start an adventure group of your own with neighbors, friends, or family members joining you on a hike or bike ride.
Explore local fitness-oriented MeetUp Groups and club memberships outside dedicated fitness centers. For example, the YMCA offers group fitness activities such as spin classes in addition to community programs and other family-friendly events. A YMCA with a pool may even offer water aerobics, a popular exercise for older adults.
Tai-chi is a form of Chinese martial arts credited for reducing stress, improving balance, enhancing the quality of life and slowing down bone loss. An analysis published in PubMed Central concluded that tai-chi could increase bone mineral density, good news for postmenopausal women with osteopenia.
Pickleball is all the rage, a cross between badminton, table tennis and wiffleball. Combining socialization with aerobics makes this sport an ideal workout for seniors. Check community centers, local parks, and even the fitness facilities at your own apartment or condo complex for available pickleball courts.
4. Gentle circuit training
Exercising with others makes workouts more fun and holds you accountable. Sociability and accountability are principles of some fitness centers. In some facilities, such as Curves, the machines are placed in a circle so you face other club members and can chat as you stay fit. Some fitness classes offer an additional benefit using technology that tracks your progress to help support your fitness goals.
5. Exercise for older adults at home
Not everyone requires social engagement to stay motivated. The CDC found that “among adults aged 65 years and older, walking and gardening or yard work are, by far, the most popular physical activities.” To increase the benefits of exercise for older adults, gradually work up to brisk walking for a longer time or work with greater vigor in short spurts.
You may also take advantage of free chair yoga and other online workouts that you can do in the comfort of your own home. Some fitness routines may require nothing more than proper shoes, while other workouts may encourage using a yoga mat, free weights, or other home equipment.
What is the Best Exercise for Older Adults?
The key to maintaining a fitness program is consistency, so the best exercise for you is one you will stick to. Find a few activities you like and mix them up by alternating aerobics and strength training.
Variety is the key because different movements call on different muscles. Our bodies have a natural ability to adapt, so it has less effect over time when you do the same workout every day. Try new things, continue to challenge yourself, and discover what type of exercise helps you meet your goals.
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If you have Medicare Advantage (MA) coverage, check your plan for extra benefits beyond Original Medicare. Some MA plans partner with fitness programs like SilverSneakers or Silver and Fit. These fitness programs can give you access to virtual classes, videos, gym discounts and certain types of home workout equipment.
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