Seniors and exercising

Staying physically active and exercising regularly can make a big difference in quality of life.

As we age, we tend to slow down in much of what we do. One thing you should not slow down on is the amount of your physical activity or exercise. According to the National Institutes for Health Senior Health, physical inactivity can be risky. Not being active enough can cause seniors to lose their ability to do things on their own, such as grocery shopping, meal preparation, even bathing and other activities of daily life. Inactivity can also lead to adverse health conditions requiring more doctor’s visits, emergency room visits and increased medication.

Physical activities, like walking the dog, keep your body moving. Many things that you do on a daily basis require physical activity. Household chores like laundry, cooking, light cleaning and doing the dishes all provide some type of physical activity. If you are mostly inactive every day, you can start to increase your health by increasing the amount of time you are physically active.

According to National eXtension Family Food and Fitness, physical exercise, on the other hand, is physical activity that is planned, structured, and involves repetitive bodily movement with the intent of improving or sustaining a physical fitness level. Just about anyone can do some type of physical exercise, age does not have to be an issue. You can still find ways to stay active and take it at your own pace. You don’t need to go to the gym or purchase expensive workout equipment. The important thing is to be sure you include both physical activity and physical exercise into your day.

Finding exercises that you enjoy doing will make it seem more like fun, and less like work. Trying to incorporate four types of exercise (endurance, strength, balance and flexibility) into your planned routine will help to achieve ideal benefits. For example, brisk walking, riding a bike, swimming, or even dancing can be great ways to get physical exercise and build endurance. Try out a community class on Yoga for seniors or Tai Chi. Both of these types of physical exercise can help with flexibility, balance and strength. Michigan State University Extension provides a class called Matter of Balance that is designed to increase strength and balance. Group classes such as these are also a great way to stay socially active! 

While it is important to be physically active and have a planned exercise routine, it is necessary to do so safely. Start slow, especially if you haven’t been active in a while. Don’t hold your breath during strength exercises, breathe out as you lift something and breathe in as you relax. Use safety equipment, such as a helmet when riding a bike. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids while exercising. Always bend forward from the hips, not the waist and be sure to warm up your muscles before you stretch.

Exercise should make you feel better, not worse. If you feel pain or extreme tiredness, you may be overdoing it. It is important to remember to check with your doctor before beginning any exercise regimen.

According to National Institute on Aging getting active, staying active and incorporating daily physical exercise can help to:

  • Keep and improve  strength
  • Give you more energy
  • Improve your balance
  • Delay or even prevent chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis
  • Help you manage stress and even improve your mood

Talk to your doctor to make sure you are healthy enough to start an exercise routine, and then find one that works best for you and your health. You will feel better physically, socially and emotionally. 

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