Physical fitness is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, especially as we age. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends that seniors engage in four types of exercises to achieve well-rounded fitness.
Katie Westberg, National Director of Life Enrichment at The Goodman Group says, "Research shows that with regular exercise, many of the physiological changes related to aging can be prevented and postponed."
Older adults are encouraged to vary exercises from day to day, reducing the chances of injury or boredom. Here are the four types of exercises for seniors recommended by NIH, along with some of their benefits and suggestions for specific activities to try.
These exercises focus on working the cardiovascular system. They can improve circulation and help lower blood pressure and heart rate. They help improve your ability to walk farther, faster, and longer. And they will make everyday activities like shopping and housework easier and more enjoyable!
- Endurance exercises include walking, swimming, jogging, yard work, and tennis.
Strength exercises are aimed at building and strengthening muscles. Also called resistance training, this includes weight lifting exercises that progressively train your muscles to become stronger. They are usually done using free weights, machines, resistance bands, or a combination. Building your strength means being able to carry groceries, do household chores, and lift and carry grandchildren with ease.
Improving balance helps provide stability in all your daily activities. This is especially helpful for preventing falls. These exercises can be as simple as increasing the time you can stand on one leg. When you’ve mastered that, try closing your eyes while you balance (but be sure to have support, such as a wall or table nearby — this can be trickier than it sounds). There are also balance mats and other devices on the market that specifically target improving balance.
Flexibility exercises work to stretch muscles and help make them more fluid and limber. They improve ease of movement in all your activities, including reaching for items, dressing, and getting in and out of cars. Combining stretching exercises with strength exercises can help you achieve balanced muscle function. Good activities to try for greater flexibility include yoga and Pilates. There are also many good books and resources on the internet that demonstrate simple stretching exercises you can do without a class or special equipment.
If you’re just starting out on an exercise program, consider investing in a few personal training sessions or start-up classes at your local gym, community center, or YMCA. These facilities have professionally trained instructors who can help get you started safely and at a pace that is right for your body and interests.
For more information on exercises for seniors, getting started on an exercise program, safety tips, and ideas for specific activities, visit the NIH website.