As we age, our bodies begin to function at a slower rate. The typical response to this is to reduce the amount of physical activity we do. In fact, men and women over the age of 65 spend on average at least 10 hours per day in a stationary position.
A lack of physical activity puts adults at an elevated risk of health complications. It also reduces our quality of life as the more time spent sitting still, the less able we are to move.
There is strong evidence to suggest that in addition to eating a healthy diet, we should exercise on a regular basis. This will lead to many health benefits and a longer life. Below we discuss two of the best exercises for seniors; swimming and walking. We also give you advice on how to organize your workouts to get the greatest benefit and enjoyment.
Exercises for Seniors: Swimming
Swimming is a great form of exercise for older adults as it is low-impact and is suitable for people who suffer from sore or stiff joints. Swimming provides benefits for the whole body and swimming on a regular basis can reduce the risk of illnesses such as osteoarthritis, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
If you are new to swimming, seek out beginner lessons at your local pool. These classes aim to teach beginners swimming strokes, breathing skills and help to build your confidence in the water. Often, community pools will cater to different age groups. There may also be other classes that suit your needs like individual sessions, water aerobics, and masters groups.
All you will need is a comfortable well-fitted swimsuit, a swimming cap and a pair of goggles to protect your eyes.
Whatever your fitness level, aim for 30-minutes of swimming each session. This will count towards the recommended level of weekly physical exercise. If you like being in the pool, you might also enjoy aqua aerobics. This exercise is popular with older adults. It is, simply, aerobics in the water.
Exercises for Seniors: Walking
Walking is another excellent all-around activity that is perfect for older adults. It is also an easy and convenient method of physical activity. Consistent and regular walking in the fresh air can have a many benefits on your mental and physical health.
It’s never too late to start regularly exercising, so if you are new to frequent walks, start off slowly. Begin with a 15 minute slow walk each day. When you start to feel more comfortable in your stride, gradually increase the speed and the length of your walk. As with swimming, you should be aiming for 30 minutes each day.
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If you have not done so already, invest in a pair of sturdy, comfortable shoes. Your best bet for quality walking shoes is a sport or outdoor store. Ask the store assistant for advice on making the right footwear decision. Some walking and running stores will even asses your gait and foot placement to recommend the best shoes for you.
To make walking more enjoyable, invite a friend, neighbor or relative to come along with you. Or, you could invest in a portable music player and listen to your favorite songs while walking. Your community may have local walking groups and some indoor malls open their doors early to walkers before retailers are open.
Regardless of your activity of choice, the best advice is to “use it so you don't lose it”!