Staying physically active is important as you age. Regular exercise helps seniors maintain strength, stamina and brain function, and enjoy an independent lifestyle.
Despite the overwhelming benefits of physical activity, not enough seniors get regular exercise. In fact, by age 75, a third of men and half of women no longer engage in physical activity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But what kind of exercises are best for seniors and what should you know before beginning an exercise regimen?
Let’s take a look at some easy exercises for seniors and the benefits of regular physical activity.
Who should exercise?
Older men and women can benefit from exercising regularly, preferably daily. The good news is that exercise doesn’t have to be strenuous to provide benefits. Exercise can include aerobic activity and muscle-strengthening activities. Basic stretching exercises for seniors also are important. Engaging in a mix of those three types of activities can increase stamina, reduce the risk of falls and make it easier to do daily tasks.
Seniors – how to start exercising
Before beginning to exercise plan, consult with your doctor. What might be right for someone else, might not be right for you, and your doctor can advise you on how to exercise safely given your specific health conditions.
If you’ve been a couch potato for some time, you’ll want to start small. Try 5-10 minutes of moderate physical activity. As you become more comfortable with that exertion, you can increase the length, intensity or frequency of your workouts.
But be careful. Even if you feel young, your body won’t recover as quickly as it did when you were in your 20s or 30s, and too much physical activity could lead to injury.
Even if you were a beast in the gym or king of the court in your prime, it’s probably best to avoid high-impact, high-intensity activities.
What are easy exercises for seniors?
You don’t have to go to the gym for physical activity unless you want support and camaraderie, which can be keys to maintaining regular workouts.
Walking, gardening and yard work are the most popular physical activities for seniors, according to the CDC, and are just some of the outdoor exercises for seniors.
There are other basic exercises for seniors that you can do in your own home.
The National Council on Aging recommends using a mix of exercises to benefit fully from physical activity. These exercises should include aerobic activities, strength training and flexibility exercises.
Walking, swimming, water aerobics or riding a stationary bike are good ways to increase cardiovascular stamina. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends 150 minutes of aerobic activity a week, which can be broken into smaller blocks.
You can do many simple, low-impact exercises at home using just your body weight, light hand-weights or resistance bands. Examples include wall pushups, stair-climbing, squats, single-leg stands, farmer’s walk and sit-to-stand.
Yoga can be a low-impact activity that helps improve flexibility and strengthens core muscles and bones. Some yoga classes for seniors are done on a chair instead of on a mat.
Pilates features low-impact exercises, many performed in a seated or reclining position, that focus on core strength to improve balance and stability.
What are the benefits of exercise for seniors?
Aerobic, flexibility and muscle-strengthening exercises bring many benefits for seniors:
- Stronger and healthier muscles, bones and joints
- Controlled joint swelling and pain from arthritis
- More energy and improved stamina
- Improved brain function
- Lower blood pressure
- Improved mood and sense of well-being
- Lower risk of dying from coronary heart disease
- Lower risk of developing colon cancer or diabetes
- Improved balance
- The ability to live independently
How to stay physically active
Deciding to be more physically active or to start an exercise program is just part of the process. Once you start, you need to keep going. Finding a family member or friend who will encourage and support you to stay physically active can help you stay on track. Exercising with others also can make the activity safer.
Some Medicare Advantage plans cover exercise programs and gym memberships for seniors, so do your research and find the right kind of plan for you.
How can a primary care doctor help me stay physically active?
A primary care doctor can advise you on how to safely exercise and improve your quality of life. Primary care Medicare doctors help their patients manage chronic health conditions, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, and can treat issues that come up, including strains and pains from too much exercise.
Your primary care physician knows you and knows how exercise or anything else is likely to impact your overall health.
How can I find a primary care doctor near me who accepts Medicare patients?
NewPrimaryCare.com™ can help you find a quality primary care doctor who treats seniors on Medicare. Our partner providers practice value-based care, meaning Medicare rewards them for helping their patients live healthier lives.
Doctors at value-based care clinics have time to learn about you and your unique needs because they’re not worried about how many patients are coming through their office. You can expect quicker appointment scheduling, shorter waits at the doctor’s office and personal attention from a caring physician.
Use our Find Your Doctor tool to search for and compare value-based care providers near you.