After retirement, many individuals find themselves with more free time than they know what to do with. Finding meaningful, healthy ways to use this excess time can be a challenge. While opportunities abound for older adults to connect with loved ones, volunteer in the community, or even learn a new hobby or skill one of the most important things that need to be added to their schedule is regular exercise.
Exercise is important for people of any age, but it is especially important for those over the age of 50. If you are one of the millions of Americans that are looking for ways to stay healthy and active in your senior years, there are a few important facts regarding exercise that you need to consider.
The Importance of Exercise as You Age
Why is exercise so important for older adults? As you age, the risk of serious health problems increases. Seniors are more likely to struggle with arthritis and diabetes. They also lose muscle tone and flexibility.
Unfortunately, it seems that older Americans are not getting the message. A recent study of older adults in America found that approximately 35 percent never exercise. Another study released by The National Institute on Aging showed that a whopping 40 percent of seniors over the age of 75 could not even walk two blocks.
Another 22 percent could not live ten pounds. This decline in strength and endurance can have serious repercussions on the life and mood of older adults.
Numerous studies have found that exercise is one of the best ways to combat the decline in independence and mobility – and the dependence on mobility assistance products – that many seniors face. Regular exercise can even help to fight dementia.
Furthermore, seniors that exercise can lower their risk for bone loss, heart disease, and stroke. Not all of the benefits are physiological either. Exercise has been shown to help individuals feel better about themselves and their lives in general. Just a few minutes a day can have an enormous impact on health and vitality.
Creative Ways to get Exercise
Some seniors may want to begin enjoying the benefits of exercise but do not know where to start. The first step should always involve visiting with your doctor to make sure that you are healthy enough to start a new exercise program. Once cleared by your doctor, there are numerous opportunities that are great for older adults. Some ideas to consider include:
- Yoga, Pilates, or Tai Chi
- Weight training
- Walk a dog
- Sit and Be Fit programs
What is right for you depends upon what health conditions you are facing and your unique interests. If you are facing bone or joint problems, consider some of the low impact options such as swimming or bicycling. Water aerobics is an especially beneficial form of exercise as it takes advantage of the buoyancy of water to take the stress off of sensitive joints and to make movements smoother.
In addition, don’t think that weight lifting is only for younger people. Strength training is a great way to increase muscle tone. Research safe, effective programs for seniors in your area. You may want to consider hiring a personal trainer to help you build a strength training program that is right for you.
Final Fitness Tips to Remember
It is important to understand, however, that as your body ages some of your needs and requirements change. For example, older adults are at a significantly increased risk of dehydration. This is particularly true if you are exercising and losing water through sweat. To combat this risk, make sure that you drink lots of water before, during, and after exercise.
Don’t neglect your diet either. Your body needs fuel to maintain strength and endurance. Eat foods that are high in fiber and try to avoid foods that are high in sodium and sugar. Look for foods in a variety of colors to make sure that you are getting all of the vitamins and minerals you need. Additionally, try to eat several small meals throughout the day instead of two or three larger ones.
Finally, exercise is much more rewarding when performed with loved ones or friends. Invite friends or neighbors to join you on walks or trips to the gym. Not only will this help to prevent health decline but it can ease loneliness and isolation. By combining the many benefits of regular exercise with interaction with family and friends you can enjoy a life that is full of health, strength, and meaning.