Exercise is an essential part of our health, especially for seniors. If you are an older adult, exercise can help you have a longer, healthier life.
But before you embark on a fitness program or enroll in a gym like Planet Fitness, do take note that intensity levels may vary from person to person. If it’s been a while since you last engaged in strenuous physical activity, it’s recommended that you consult a doctor before getting started.
As a senior, regular physical activity can prevent or delay a lot of age-related health problems. It also helps your muscles become stronger so you can continue doing your usual day-to-day activities without needing any assistance from others.
What you need to understand is this: some physical activity is better than no physical activity at all. The more physical activity you do, the more benefits you get for your health and wellness.
If you’re 65 or older, you should aim for:
- At least 150 minutes a week of physical activity
- At least 2 days a week of muscle strengthening activities
- At least 3 days a week to improve balance
- Reduce time spent sitting and avoid long periods of inactivity
Aerobic Exercises for Older Adults
Regular aerobic (cardio) exercise is essential for any age group, but it becomes increasingly important for older adults. Not only does it strengthen your heart and lungs, cardio exercise also gives you more energy, helps you manage your weight, sharpens your mind, reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, improves sleep and even keep you feel young.
But the question you probably want to ask is, how much cardio should you do? The American Heart Association and American College of Sports Medicine suggest the following:
- Mix of intense and moderate cardio, 3-5 days a week, or
- Moderate intensity cardio for half an hour/day, 5 days a week, or
- Intense cardio for 20-25 minutes, thrice a week.
- The recommendations may seem simple enough but actually doing them can be confusing at first. Try these steps to make things easier to follow:
1. Pick an Activity.
Choose an activity that you can do at a moderate or intense level. Choose something that fits your needs, is accessible and one that you enjoy.
2. Decide How Long to Exercise.
If you’re a beginner you can start with just 15 minutes of cardio and build up your endurance over time. So, for example, you can start with 15 minutes of brisk walking and work your way up to 30 minutes in a span of 1-2 weeks.
3. Choose Your Intensity.
You know your body more than anyone else so start at a level that is comfortable for you. You can push yourself a bit harder every couple of days.
4. Decide How Often to Workout.
Some people may be able to work out everyday, others 3-4x a week. Know your own needs and make a routine / schedule that’s completely doable for you.
Recommended Cardio Exercises for Seniors
There are many cardio exercises that you can consider. Below is a list of recommended exercises geared towards seniors that you can incorporate in your routine to achieve a healthier lifestyle.
1. Brisk Walking and Jogging
If you haven’t been exercising for a long time, you can start with walking. Most people underestimate this activity because it’s very low-impact. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Walking is easy on the joints and help you gradually build muscle tone and stronger bones.
Brisk-walking on even terrain is considered moderate-intensity. If you prefer a more intense workout, you can try brisk-walking on a hilly terrain.
2. Spin Classes
Gyms like Fitness First have spin classes you can enroll in. Spinning offers a really good cardio workout and is a lot of fun too. Just be sure to inform your instructor of your current fitness level before joining the group class.
Yoga can raise your heart rate making it a nice addition to your aerobic workouts. If you have not done yoga before you can start with Vinyasa yoga. More advanced practitioners can do Vinyasa flows and Ashtanga yoga. Yoga classes can give you heart-pumping workouts that not only improve heart health but also muscle tone, flexibility and balance.
Swimming is great for seniors as it allows more freedom of movement and is also gentle on the joints. Start with 5-10 minutes and work up to more laps as you increase your fitness level.
This fun activity is a great cardio exercise for seniors. You can choose from low-intensity to moderate-intensity dance classes which are often available in local studios and fitness centers.
Here’s some light dancing class for seniors you can check.