Breaking a Sweat: Physical Activity For Older Adults

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For aging adults, a consistent physical activity routine can be a challenge to maintain, though it is incredibly important for maintaining health and independence.

Regular exercise strengthens muscles, joints and bones, enhances flexibility, prevents health problems, reduces the risk of developing injuries and illnesses and produces long-term health benefits. Even older adults with arthritis, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes or other disabilities can greatly benefit from a structured exercise program.

There are a number of suitable physical activities for older adults to get active and work up a sweat. Checking out classes offered at local senior centers, recreational centers and gyms is a great place to start. However, the first step to beginning any new physical fitness routine is talking to a doctor about any potential health limitations, then developing a personal physical activity plan that starts slowly and gradually grows in intensity.

Making a Physical Activity Plan

According to the CDC, the ideal physical activity plan for adults over 65 is about 150 minutes of moderate activity and 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week with a session of muscle strengthening and balance training 2 to 3 days per week. While those numbers may seem overwhelming at first, they are important numbers to hit and can be reached over time, at whatever pace is comfortable.

As long as physical activity is happening for at least 10 minutes at a time, the exercise will be effective. Activity can be scheduled into the week in 10-minute increments, based on what’s most convenient.

Moderate Activities

Considering any older adult’s personal physical capacity on a scale of 1-10, moderate activity should feel like a 5-6 to them. Moderate activities include any activity that gets the heart beating faster. Here are some ways older adults can achieve moderate physical activity:

  • Brisk Walking
  • Nature Hiking
  • Bicycling (8-10 mph)
  • Playing Recreational Badminton
  • Playing Doubles Tennis

Vigorous Activities

Vigorous activity should feel more like a 7-8 on a physical capacity scale and cause sweating. To make these activities easier to perform, we recommend taking 10 minutes before and after these physical activities to stretch. Here are some ways older adults can achieve vigorous physical activity:

  • Running
  • Jogging
  • Dancing
  • Bicycling (10+ mph)
  • Playing Pickleball
  • Playing Soccer
  • Playing Basketball
  • Playing Singles Tennis

Muscle Strengthening and Balance Training

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Muscle strengthening should focus on all major muscle groups through a minimum of 8-12 repetitions of a single activity, including:

  • Push-ups
  • Sit-ups
  • Lifting Weights
  • Working with Resistant Bands
  • Yoga

Balance training should focus on full-body coordination and flexibility, with a minimum of 8-12 repetitions and can include:

  • Backwards Walking
  • Sideways Walking
  • Heel-to-Toe Walking
  • Grapevine Walking
  • Knee Marching
  • Back Leg Raises
  • Side Leg Raises
  • One Leg Standing
  • Repeated Standing and Sitting
  • Tai Chi

Water Activities

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If you or an aging loved one suffer from health conditions like arthritis, joint disease and circulatory problems, water aerobics can be a gentle solution for physical activity. For older adults, the low impact nature of this form of exercise, combined with the buoyancy factor, makes it a workout with the least risk of injury and a good choice for aging adults. Water aerobics effectively gets the blood pumping, enhances balance and builds strength. Popular water aerobic activities include:

  • Water Yoga
  • Ai Chi (or Aqua Balance)
  • Water Pilates

Keep Up with the Plan

Once an older adult has gotten comfortable with a fitness routine, there is always room to do more (and with more work, comes more health benefits)! To make the physical activities more enjoyable, we suggest listening to music during workouts, joining a group class or setting personal goals that are tied to a rewards system.

Soon enough, they will see gradual endurance and improvements that support greater confidence and independence. Plus, on top of all the health benefits, they’ll likely experience happier moods, fewer symptoms of depression and enhanced cognitive abilities.

Make More Time for Activities

Starting a new physical activity plan can give older adults newfound energy and independence, which promotes a more active lifestyle. Maintaining an exercise routine can be a challenge after factoring in everyday chores and responsibilities, though that’s where SameAddress comes in to help!

SameAddress provides the most comprehensive Concierge Solution — offering a wide range of everyday services to older adults who choose to age in place. We provide everything they need to remain safe, comfortable and independent at home, giving them the time and motivation for plenty of physical activity.

To learn more about how we can help you or a family member with enhanced quality of life at home, read more about our Concierge Solution here or contact us today.