As we grow older, staying active becomes an important component of any healthy aging plan. At 18 years of age, your body can pretty much do anything without warming up, and will recover almost overnight from most physical exertions. However, by the time we get to our 50’s and beyond, keeping the body in good shape is similar to caring for an older car. You need to send it for regular servicing, drive it regularly each day and always ensure that you listen to the engine when you use it. Leaving it unused in your garage is a sure recipe to a flat battery.
The Benefits of Exercise
However, beyond the health benefits which seniors get from regular exercise, there are a whole host of others too.
The first benefit comes from the sense of well-being that you get from exercise. The release of endorphins after a good workout can do wonders to improve your mood in general and your outlook in life as well. Regular exercise may also allow you to sleep better, and with adequate rest, you will feel fresher and more able to concentrate on daily tasks.
Exercise also has social benefits. Seniors who exercise regularly tend to meet with others who do too. Having a regular group to meet with gives them an excuse to get out of the house. A shared interest in a sport or exercise is also a great way for seniors to maintain or widen social networks.
Remaining fit and limber will also allow seniors to avoid injuries from slips and falls, and often allows them to recover faster from illnesses which they might encounter.
The 4 Exercise Building Blocks
It’s a good idea to think of exercise in terms of 4 building blocks. If you can, try to design an exercise program which combines all these exercise types.
1. Build Stamina
Any type of cardiovascular exercise will help with this. It could be going for a regular morning walk, climbing stairs, swimming or even dancing, but the idea is to get the heart pumping and the circulation up.
2. Get Stronger
Strength training helps to maintain bone density and build muscle. Being stronger enables you to do simple things like opening jars, closing the car boot, lifting and moving small items around the house. Better bone density protects seniors from fractures arising from trips or falls.
3. Become More Flexible
Stretching and keeping your joints supple and flexible allows you to remain active and independent. Being able to bend down and tie your own shoe laces, reach over and play with your grandchildren and stretch out to reach items on a shelf are all possible if you can remain flexible. Try exercises such as yoga or gentle stretches each day.
Exercises such as tai chi and yoga are great ways to increase your sense of balance. Having a better sense of balance will allow you to avoid falling and recover better from minor slips and trips which may occur.
Before you start on any exercise programme, make sure that you visit your family doctor and run through any specific do’s and don’ts. Each individual is unique and you may have to tailor your exercise programme to take into account any problems you may have.
Pick a sport or activity which you enjoy and start slow. Monitor how you feel and gradually increase your participation in it.
Pay attention to any sudden shortness of breath, sharp and intense pains, or pains which won’t go away. If you feel that the exercise routine does not suit you, take a break and seek some medical advice.
You may also find it helpful to start off with a sports professional or trainer who can help to guide you in designing an appropriate exercise routine.
Many people find that they have no difficulty in starting an exercise programme, the real problem is continuing with it. The key to keeping to an exercise regime is to make it a regular part of your life. Don’t think of exercise as a chore which must be done, think of it as something which is a natural part of each day such as eating or sleeping.
Pick a sport or activity which you enjoy. If you’ve always liked nature and photography, perhaps combining both and adding in some hiking is a good idea. If you have friends you like to be with and all of you enjoy bowling, maybe bowling together a few times a week could be fun. Perhaps you were a champion swimmer when you were young? Picking up a sport you used to be good at can be an easy way to get back into the exercise habit.
Build some exercise into your daily routines. Take the stairs instead of the lift sometimes, walk to the post office instead of driving, stretch before breakfast. There are many little ways which you can add a little bit of exercise into your day. Before you know it, each little bit adds up and you could be doing quite a lot of exercise without noticing it.