By Nancy Swayze, MD
Chief of Skilled Nursing Facilities
Medical experts agree that older adults (those age 65+) really benefit from regular exercise. Even seniors who have chronic medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis can see improvement in their conditions with regular exercise. Of course, you should always check with your medical provider to see if it is safe for you to exercise.
Exercise can be broken down into four categories: endurance, strength, balance and flexibility. Incorporating all four types of exercise into your weekly routine will benefit you more. A recent meta-study found that regular exercise performed by those 65 or older can reduce the rate of falls by 23%.
Below are some examples of the four main exercise types:
This type of exercise increases your breathing and heart rate and helps improve the health of your heart, lungs and circulatory system. During moderate cardiovascular exercise your breathing will quicken but you will not be out of breath. During vigorous cardiovascular exercise even saying a few words will be difficult without pausing for breath. A stationary bike or treadmill can be a great way to get cardiovascular exercise without worrying about the weather.
Endurance/cardiovascular exercise includes:
- Stair climbing
Sometimes called resistance training, this type of exercise helps build and strengthen your muscles and includes:
- Lifting weights
- Using resistance bands
- Body-weight exercises such as sit-ups, pullups and pushups
Balance is the ability to control your body’s position whether stationary or moving. These exercises help promote joint stability and can be an important way to prevent falls. Balance exercises include:
- Yoga or Tai chi
- Walking heel-to-toe
- Standing on one foot
We all lose some flexibility as we age. Performing regular flexibility exercises can help maintain your flexibility and make it easier to perform everyday tasks. Flexibility exercises are a great way to begin an exercise program and include:
While it’s important to incorporate all four forms of exercise into your routine, it’s also important to choose exercises that you enjoy and that are safe for you to do regularly. For instance, a high-impact exercise, such as running may not be suitable for someone with arthritic knees, and bike-riding may not be appropriate for someone with balance issues. Joining an exercise group can help with motivation and make exercising a regular activity that is fun and social.
It’s a good idea to track the amount of exercise you get each week. People age 65 and older should aim for at least 2.5 hours of exercise each week. Strength training is best done about two days a week for about an hour or so. Balance and flexibility exercises are best done each day. Keep in mind that everyone has a gradual decrease in their strength and endurance as they age, so exercise that you could perform easily when you were young will be more challenging in your later years. If you are recovering from a recent illness or injury, the supervision of a trainer or a rehabilitation therapist can be helpful and reassuring.
If you haven’t exercised in a long time, you should begin slowly. A little bit of soreness the next day can be expected, so try not to push yourself too hard. The soreness should fade away as you get more used to exercising regularly. Many seniors look forward to exercising and feel it helps their physical as well as mental well-being – with a little effort, you can benefit too!
About Nancy Swayze, MD – Chief of Skilled Nursing Facilities
Geriatricians are doctors who specialize in the medical care of patients over the age of 65. At Reliant Medical Group, our geriatricians work inside nursing homes (also known as skilled nursing facilities) helping to provide care for our older patients. Geriatricians are experts at dealing with arthritis, osteoporosis, mobility issues, memory loss and other problems that can affect the elderly. They can also help seniors deal with the...View profile View posts by this doctor