Regular exercise is an important part of staying healthy as people age. Unfortunately, whether it’s because they are dealing with physical ailments or just because they’ve fallen out of the habit, many seniors do not exercise regularly.
Avoiding exercise does more harm than good.
According to NIH Senior Health, seniors often worry that exercise will harm them. However, inactivity is actually riskier.
Regular exercise can
- Result in fewer hospitalizations, doctor visits and prescriptions.
- Improve blood pressure, balance and mobility.
- Help seniors with heart disease, arthritis or diabetes.
- Reduce stress and depression.
- Improve or maintain cognitive function.
Adults need 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week.
According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, adults should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of intense physical activity each week. Adults should also perform muscle strengthening activities at least twice a week.
When possible, seniors are advised to follow the same basic guidelines as younger adults. If health problems prevent them from achieving the full 150 minutes, they should exercise as much as possible. Exercises that improve balance are also recommended for anyone at risk of falling.
Most seniors do not exercise enough.
According to the CDC, most Americans do not get enough exercise, and this is especially true for seniors. Only 17.1 percent of people between 55 and 64 years old meet the recommendations for both aerobic and muscle-strengthening. Among people age 65 or older, only 15.9 percent meet the recommendations.
The numbers are a little better when looking at aerobic activity only, but they’re still not great. Only about 50 percent of people aged 55 and older meet the recommendations for aerobic activity.
Seniors have many exercise options.
Seniors should look for physical activities that they will enjoy doing. Some good options to consider include:
- Going on a walk.
- Using a treadmill or elliptical machine.
- Swimming or engaging in water aerobics.
- Muscle strengthening exercises. NIH Senior Health provides a list of recommended muscle strengthening exercises.
- Balance exercises. NIH Senior Health has a list of recommended exercises for balance.
Seniors should stop exercising if they experience problems, such as chest pain, dizziness or nausea. To see how their health conditions may affect their ability to exercise, seniors should talk to a doctor before beginning an exercise program.