As winter slips away and mother nature begins to awake from her cold winter slumber, we often feel more inclined to get moving ourselves. But as our bodies age, exercise can become harder on joints that are stiff and painful or old injuries that come to haunt us.
You may be wondering what exercises are best for the older adult. Don’t turn to the high-impact exercise routines you once took part in. Those may have worked in your 20s and 30s, but it’s time to be kinder to your body.
Low-impact exercises can be used for calorie-burning, muscle-building workouts that will help you stay strong, fit and healthy and your joints will thank you for it.
Remember, a good pair of shoes designed for exercise is important. Not only will they make the process of exercising more comfortable, a good pair of shoes can prevent injuries.
Stretching is also important. Stretching before and after a workout will help prevent injuries and reduce the soreness that can accompany a good workout. Stretching itself is a great part of every fitness program.
Walking can be so easy we may forget it can be used as a workout; and, aside from a good pair of walking shoes, no other equipment is needed. But when you’re ready to rev up the workout, you can add hand and ankle weights. It’s hard to beat walking when it comes to staying active.
You’ve probably heard walking promoted many times as a great form of exercise, and with good reason. This simple exercise has so many benefits. A brisk walk, ideally 30 minutes a day, 5-6 days a week, can help you:
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Improve your mood
- Strengthen your muscles and bones
- Manage or prevent health problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease and type 2 diabetes
According to studies at Harvard, walking also:
- Counteracts the effects of weight-promoting genes
- Can tame a sweet tooth
- Reduces the risk of developing breast cancer
- Eases joint pain
- Boosts immune function
It has some surprising benefits as well. It can help prevent constipation and other digestive disorders. Remember, the faster, farther and more frequently you walk, the more benefits you’ll reap. Need help getting started? Check out Silver Sneakers 31-day walking workout.
Swimming and Water Aerobics
Swimming is a relaxing and peaceful form of exercise. Swimming and water aerobics are both fabulous low-impact workouts that are great for your heart and excellent for increasing range of motion. Water sports improve cardiovascular health and energy. Water supports aching or arthritic joints while at the same time providing resistance to strengthen your muscles and bones.
Because you use nearly all of your muscles while swimming, this easy exercise provides a complete body workout. Other benefits of swimming and water aerobics include:
- Allows you to keep your heart rate up while taking some of the stress off your body
- Tones muscles and builds strength
- Improves flexibility, coordination, balance and posture
- Helps you to maintain a healthy weight
- Is a great workout for heart and lungs
- Alleviates stress, depression and anxiety
Swimming has some surprising benefits as well. It can:
- Make you smarter
- Lengthen your life
- Improve exercise-induced asthma
- Delay the effects of aging
Because it’s harder to know when you’re thirsty (and becoming dehydrated) when you’re in the water, it’s a good idea to drink plenty of water before diving in.
Tai chi, often described as “meditation in motion,” is a traditional Chinese practice that involves both physical and mental exercise. It’s an effective and gentle form of exercise that improves balance, flexibility, strength and range of motion.
According to Peter M. Wayne, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of the Tai Chi and Mind-Body Research Program at Harvard Medical School’s Osher Research Center, “A growing body of carefully conducted research is building a compelling case for tai chi as an adjunct to standard medical treatment for the prevention and rehabilitation of many conditions commonly associated with age.”
Tai chi offers many of the same health benefits as yoga. It’s adaptable and safe for all ages and for all stages of health. It’s particularly beneficial for older adults because it reduces joint stiffness and improves balance and flexibility.
Tai chi can also help:
- Lower blood pressure
- Reduce depression and stress, while improving feelings of overall well-being
- Improve balance and reduce falls
- Provide overall pain relief
- Improve symptoms of arthritis
Wellness at Berkeley Oaks
Whatever exercise option you choose, the most important thing is to get out and do it. These three options offer great mental and physical health benefits and will help you to strengthen and protect your body.
Exercise is important, especially for older adults. It helps to lubricate the joints and assists in keeping the heart and lungs healthy and functioning. It’s a component of our Valeo™ wellness philosophy here at Berkeley Oaks and we’ve made it an integral part of our health and wellness programs.
If you have any questions, please contact us. We’d love to chat with you and give you a tour of our community. Looking for more ways to enjoy the wonderful warm spring weather? Check out our article, 15 Activities to Put a Spring in Your Step.