Exercise for Seniors: Why and How Seniors Should Exercise

seniors walking for exercise

As we age, we naturally tend to become more sedentary, but it’s important for seniors to keep moving. When you exercise, your tissues receive more oxygen and nutrients. As a result, your cardiovascular system works more efficiently. The more your heart and lung health improve, the more you’ll feel like you have the energy to tackle your daily chores.

Why exercise for seniors is important

  • Muscle mass As you get older, you lose muscle mass, but exercise can help you rebuild it.
  • Slower metabolism As you age, your metabolism slows down. Muscles also burn more calories than fat, even at rest, which will offset your slowing metabolism.
  • Physical health Exercise helps stop, delay, and sometimes improve serious illnesses like heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, and osteoporosis.
  • Mental health Exercise helps your brain stay sharp. As you exercise, your body releases endorphins, “happy hormones” that help to keep your mood upbeat. If you pick an exercise that you enjoy doing, you’ll benefit even more.

Choices of exercise for seniors

  • Cardio or aerobic exercise gets your heart rate up and makes you breathe harder, which builds your endurance and burns calories.
  • Strength or weight training keeps your muscles ready for action.
  • Flexibility exercises help you stay limber so you can have a full range of movement and avoid injury. Balance training becomes important after age 50, so you can and stay active.

Easy ways to get exercise

  • Walking It builds your stamina, strengthens lower body muscles, and helps fight against bone diseases like osteoporosis. Go walking with a friend and you’ll get the befit of social contact too.
  • Cycling This is good if you have stiff or sore joints, because your legs don’t have to support your weight. The action gets your blood moving and builds muscles on both the front and back of your legs and hips. You use your abs for balance and your arms and shoulders to steer. Because there’s resistance, you’re strengthening your bones, too.
  • Strength training When you lift weights, work out on machines, use resistance bands, or do exercises with your own body weight (like push-ups and sit-ups), you build strength, muscle mass, and flexibility. It’ll make things like carrying groceries and climbing stairs easier.
  • Swimming You can exercise for longer in the water than on land. There’s no weight putting stress on your joints (and making them hurt), and the water offers resistance to build muscles and bones. Swimming laps burns calories and works your heart like jogging and cycling, yet you’re not likely to overheat.

Good Tip: Lower-impact exercise, with less jumping and pounding, is kinder to your joints.

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