Jun 26, 2017 by Kristina Butler
Exercise is important at all stages of life, but it becomes increasingly important as we age. The American Heart Association notes that regular exercise is the key to decreasing the risks associated with heart disease, the number one killer in America. Of course, regular exercise is also helpful in reducing the risks of diabetes, many cancers, osteoporosis, and the painful symptoms of arthritis. With so many benefits of exercise, it should come as a complete shock that less than half of seniors over the age of 65 exercise regularly.
The reality is that many more seniors would like to exercise than currently do, but they are afraid of getting hurt, are embarrassed about their current level of fitness, or simply do not know where to start. In these cases, in-home care providers can make a significant difference. With in-home care, seniors receive social and emotional support to help them move beyond their self-consciousness, physical support to increase safety, and companionship to encourage regular participation.
For seniors who simply do not know where to start, consider these pointers:
Exercises generally target cardio (heart health) or strength (muscles mass), but there are also exercises designed to improve balance and flexibility. Some programs and exercises address several of the exercise types. According to the AHA, the best exercise regimen incorporates all four exercise types with a minimum of 30 minutes of cardio at least 5 days a week and 2 days of moderate intensity strength training. The strength and cardio can be combined and completed on the same day.
Because each senior's physical condition and health status are unique, it is important to talk with a doctor before making major life changes such as starting an exercise program. This is especially true if mobility issues, joint pain, or metabolism issues are involved. Exercise may also impact medications and medication side effects, so remember that the first step in being safe is discussing the exercise program with a physician who knows and understands your senior loved one's specific condition.
It is not necessary to go to a gym, pool, or other facility to get a good workout. For example, these two senior-safe exercises are recommended by the experts and can be done at home:
1. Squats with a chair as support. The squat is one of the most beneficial of all exercises. It targets the large leg muscles as well as the core. Squats are a four-time winner, helping with strength, balance, flexibility, and cardio (if done rapidly enough to raise the heart rate). To perform a proper squat, stand in front of a chair whose seat is at your knee level or slightly higher. Place your feet shoulder width apart. Keep the chest up and pointing forward (don't bend down) while slowly lowering the butt toward the chair. Your knees should never go in front of your toes. You can either pause and sit on the chair before rising back up or immediately rise up based on your fitness level. When rising up, contract your core, put your weight on your heels, and stand while keeping the chest up. Bending forward will put pressure on the back.
2. Push ups are to the upper body what squats are to the lower body. All major muscle groups of the upper body are used. Many seniors cannot do a regular push up due to joint pain, loss of muscle strength, or obesity. An effective alternative is to complete a push up by leaning into a wall. As you develop more strength, push ups on the floor can be attempted.
These are just two examples of many senior safe exercises that can be done at home. Others include planks, several yoga poses, and Tai Chi.
For more information about safe exercises, or to find out more about how Comfort Keepers in home care can help your senior loved one improve their fitness, contact a senior care coordinator today.