Regular exercise can greatly enhance the lives and general health of all senior citizens, whether the lifestyle is moderately active or inactive. Health conditions do not eliminate the need for exercise. Many conditions can be helped by regular activity and strength training, although a doctor should always be consulted.
Inactive seniors should set up a program which gradually builds to at least thirty minutes of moderately intense exercise. In addition, this program should include some weight-bearing exercise. Those seniors who are already at least moderately active can set a goal to increase the intensity of activity while targeting specific areas of improvement. For all fitness levels, a thirty-minute period of activity should be the target.
Aerobic exercise should be used to improve cardiovascular health and general fitness. This type of activity can also help to eliminate excess weight. For improved strength and a reduction in risk for osteoporosis, weight-bearing and resistance exercises are recommended. Static stretching and abdominal curls improve lower back strength and help in toning muscles and maintaining flexibility.
Precautions should always be taken to guard against possible injury, especially in cases of pre-existing health conditions. Anyone suffering from any of the following should consult a physician before embarking upon any type of fitness program.
- heart conditions
- high blood pressure
- bone or joint problems
- any undiagnosed symptoms
Also, before starting an exercise program, safety should be taken into account. Even if walking is the only form of exercise, proper footwear is needed. Strong, well-fitting shoes should always be worn. For biking or skating, helmets and padding are necessary safety equipment. Other important safety measures include:
- warming-up before any exercise
- beginning slowly and gradually building intensity in any activity
- never increasing the length or intensity of any fitness activity by more than ten percent weekly
- planning a varied fitness program to allow for overall body conditioning
- drinking water before, during and after exercise–not waiting to become thirsty
- obtaining proper training in the use of weights before any kind of weight training exercises
- stopping exercise immediately if any pain or swelling occurs
- never exercising until breathing becomes labored (if talking is difficult while performing any exercise, the intensity should be reduced)
TYPES OF EXERCISES
Endurance exercise increases the heart rate and breathing, thereby helping to condition the heart, lungs and the circulatory system. Building endurance also helps to delay or prevent many diseases associated with aging.
Strength exercise increase general strength and muscle mass while regulating metabolism and keeping blood sugar and weight levels balanced. By helping in weight reduction, strength exercises lower risk for ailments such as diabetes, which are common in obese individuals.
Flexibility exercises or stretching improve overall body tone and conditioning. Better body flexibility also aids in the healing of healing of injuries.
Balance exercises build muscles in arms and legs to help improve equilibrium and prevent falls, which are a serious issue with senior citizens.
While all of the exercise types should be done as a well-rounded program, a gradual increase in activity is still important. A sudden change in the level of exertion can cause serious injuries. No matter what the fitness level, improvements should be gradually made.
For the senior citizen who is already active and has a higher degree of overall fitness, a gradual increase of intensity can still be beneficial to maintain the level of conditioning. Even much older and frail seniors can engage in exercise to improve health and flexibility, although a doctor should always be consulted first.