Summary

Did you know regular exercise can help seniors live longer and healthier? Be sure to wear comfortable clothing, take it slow, stay hydrated, walk frequently, go to a pool, lift weights, and perform balance exercises.

senior with caregiver

Did you know regular exercise can help you live longer and healthier?  Active seniors tend to maintain their independence better and have more energy, less stress, and better sleep.   Anyone can start an exercise program at any age or fitness level!  Here are some tips:  

  • Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing.  Athletic gear is available in stores and online.  Sneakers are appropriate footwear for most activities.  
  • Take it slow!  If you’ve been sedentary, just 5-10 minutes of light movement may be enough to start.  Try 2-3 workouts per week, gradually increasing your frequency, time, and/or intensity.  A good long-term goal is to be able to exercise at moderate intensity for 30 minutes, 5 times per week.  
  • Drink plenty of water!  Ideally, you should drink before, during, and after workouts, and whenever you’re thirsty.  Substitute other fluids if you don’t like water – but choose something with a high water content if possible.  
  • Walking is a wonderful activity for seniors!  In addition to improving heart health, it’s a weight-bearing activity, so it helps improve bone density.  Walking can be done outside or on a treadmill.  
  • Water exercise is great for seniors!  Arthritic joints often feel best in the water.  Whether it’s lap swimming or water aerobics, you can find pools at your local Y or Parks and Rec.
  • Did you know that after age 30, we lose 3-5% of our muscle mass per decade?  This can lead to weakness and slow metabolism.  The good news is, muscle loss can be minimized by lifting weights!  Working with a trainer is ideal, but you can always buy a pair of light hand weights (start with 1-2 pounds each, if you’ve never lifted).  If you don’t have access to dumbbells, substitute soup cans or water bottles! Free exercise demonstrations are now readily available on the Internet.   
  • Balance is an aspect we tend to neglect.  Regularly performing balance exercises can help prevent falls.  Start by simply standing on one leg for a few seconds while holding onto a chair or wall for support.  Gradually try to balance longer, with less weight in the chair/wall.  Eventually, you can try to let go.  
  • If you’re in a wheelchair or don’t have the stamina to stand long, try some “sit and be fit”-style workouts!  Here’s a Youtube video with seated exercises to get you started:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zwMq2VMUgM0
  • If you or someone you care for is in the early to moderate stages of dementia, try playing music to encourage movement.  Music from the senior’s teenage and early adult years are often fan favorites.  Because music “lives” in a part of the brain that isn’t affected by dementia, don’t be surprised if the toes start tappin’ and the fingers start snappin’ when a favorite jam comes on!  
  • Last but not least, always check with your doctor if you’re unsure of whether or not a specific workout program is right for you.