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Senior Exercise & Fitness Tips

Since we have been in lockdown my fabulous Mum, who is an active 75 year old has been walking the parameter of her house to keep fit and no doubt to keep sane! She does this 3 times a day and does 12 rounds in each session.  At the end of the day she has completed approx 6,000 steps.

My Mum who is cocooning with my Dad, who isn't as young as my Mum and isn't in good health. Mum is just wonderful, working hard to mind my Dad and she needs to stay fit and strong to do this so in addition to getting her steps in, I've shown her some simple upper body exercises that she can do sitting on a chair to help her maintain mobility and flexibility and strength.  We also spend a little time with assisted squats, on her "leg day". They don't take long and they make a big difference to her life.

No matter your age, it’s never too late to get fit. These easy exercise tips will help you get started safely and make it fun.

What are the benefits of exercise for older adults?

There are many reasons why we tend to slow down and become more sedentary with age. It may be due to health problems, weight or pain issues, or worries about falling. Or perhaps you think that exercising simply isn’t for you. But as you grow older, an active lifestyle becomes more important than ever to your health.

A recent Swedish study found that physical activity was the number one contributor to longevity, adding extra years to your life—even if you don’t start exercising until your senior years. But getting active is not just about adding years to your life, it’s about adding life to your years.

Getting moving can help boost your energy, maintain your independence, protect your heart, and manage symptoms of illness or pain as well as your weight. Regular exercise is also good for your mind, mood, and memory.

Physical health benefits

Helps you maintain or lose weight. As metabolism naturally slows with age, maintaining a healthy weight is a challenge. Exercise helps increase metabolism and builds muscle mass, helping to burn more calories.

Reduces the impact of illness and chronic disease. People who exercise tend to have improved immune and digestive functioning, better blood pressure and bone density, and a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, osteoporosis, and certain cancers.

Enhances mobility, flexibility, and balance. Exercise improves your strength, flexibility and posture, which in turn will help with balance, coordination, and reducing the risk of falls. Strength training also helps alleviate the symptoms of chronic conditions such as arthritis.

Mental health benefits

Improves sleep. Quality sleep is vital for your overall health. Regular activity can help you fall asleep more quickly, sleep more deeply, and wake feeling more energetic and refreshed.

Boosts mood and self-confidence. Exercise is a huge stress reliever and the endorphins produced can actually help reduce feelings of sadness, depression, or anxiety. Being active and feeling strong naturally helps you feel more self-confident.

Does amazing things for the brain. Activities like Sudoku or crossword puzzles can help keep your brain active, but little comes close to the beneficial effects of exercise on the brain. It can help brain functions as diverse as multitasking and creativity and can help prevent memory loss, cognitive decline, and dementia. Getting active may even help slow the progression of brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Overcoming obstacles to getting active as you age

Starting or maintaining a regular exercise routine can be a challenge at any age—and it doesn’t get any easier as you get older. You may feel discouraged by health problems, aches and pains, or concerns about injuries or falls. If you’ve never exercised before, you may not know where to begin, or perhaps you think you’re too old or frail, and can never live up to the standards you set when you were younger. Or maybe you just think that exercise is boring.

While these may seem like good reasons to slow down and take it easy as you age, they’re even better reasons to get moving. Becoming more active can energize your mood, relieve stress, help you manage symptoms of illness and pain, and improve your overall sense of well-being. And reaping the rewards of exercise doesn’t have to involve strenuous workouts or trips to the gym. You can gain the benefits from adding more movement and activity to your life, even in small ways. No matter your age or physical condition, it’s never too late to get your body moving, boost your health and outlook, and improve how you age.

Getting started safely 

Getting active is one of the healthiest decisions you can make as you age, but it’s important to do it safely.

Get medical clearance from your doctor before starting an exercise program, especially if you have a preexisting condition. Ask if there are any activities you should avoid.

Consider health concerns. Keep in mind how your ongoing health problems affect your workouts. For example, diabetics may need to adjust the timing of medication and meal plans when setting an exercise schedule.

Listen to your body. Exercise should never hurt or make you feel lousy. Stop exercising immediately and call your doctor if you feel dizzy or short of breath, develop chest pain or pressure, break out in a cold sweat, or experience pain. And put your routine on hold if a joint is red, swollen, or tender to the touch—the best way to cope with injuries is to avoid them in the first place. If you regularly experience pain or discomfort after exercising, try exercising for less time but more frequently throughout the day.

Start slow and build up steadily. If you haven’t been active in a while, build up your exercise program little by little. Try spacing workouts in ten-minute increments twice a day. If you’re concerned about falling or have an ongoing heart problem, start with easy chair exercises to slowly increase your fitness and confidence.

Prevent injury and discomfort by warming up, cooling down, and keeping water handy.

Commit to an exercise schedule for at least 3 or 4 weeks so that it becomes habit, and force yourself to stick with it. This is much easier if you find activities you enjoy.

Experiment with mindfulness. Instead of zoning out when you exercise, try to focus on how your body feels as you move—the rhythm of your breathing, the way your feet strike the ground, your muscles flexing, for example. Practicing mindfulness will improve your physical condition faster, better relieve stress and anxiety, and make you more likely to avoid accidents or injuries.

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