Physical activity for seniors is as, if not more, important than exercise is at any age. As we grow older, our overall activity level is reduced. We become more sedentary, sometimes gaining weight and losing muscle strength, which creates an even larger barrier to a healthy lifestyle. Creating a senior exercise routine is a vital aspect of healthy aging. This article includes a free 124-page PDF download on Exercise & Physical Activity from the National Institute on Aging at NIH.
Seniors and Exercise
Studies have shown that older adults must maintain a normal activity level. Exercise is 1 of the 7 ways to stay healthy as you age. Doing so means seniors will have a more satisfying and longer life and reduce the risk of falls. Health benefits to regular exercise for seniors include improvement in neurocognitive function and reductions in coronary artery disease and depression.
Older adults should do muscle-strengthening, stretching, and aerobic exercises weekly. The type and duration of activities should take prescribed medications, injuries, and chronic conditions into account. The ideal routine should include aerobic activities, some that are balanced and flexibility focused, and exercises that involve resistance training.
The Free Exercise Guide
The NIH Aging Exercise and Physical Activity Guide (click the link to download it) is an everyday physical activity and exercise handbook from the National Institute on Aging. This booklet aims to present research focused on the health and well-being of older adults to encourage more regular physical activity. The guide’s information is the heart of what NIA’s national campaign Go4Life entails, which was designed to help adults over 50 incorporate more physical activity into their daily routines.
No matter what fitness level you currently are at, this guidebook has something for you. There are tips to improve your activity level and health with simple lifestyle changes. Having a chronic health problem or disability does not mean you are consigned to a sedentary life. Simple changes in routine or the addition of basic balance, stretching, strength-training or endurance exercises can improve your quality of life tremendously.
There are times when unexpected events, illness, or traveling can impact your activity level temporarily. In this booklet, you’ll find tips on how to get back on track when your fitness routine is sidetracked.
In addition to the illustrated section on practical and simple exercises, the NIH Aging Exercise and Physical Activity Guide also has tips for healthy eating, personal stories to inspire you, links to websites for more information, and charts to measure your progress. There are seven chapters, each with a reasonable health goal.
The first chapter answers what types of exercises and physical activities you can include in your daily routine to improve your endurance, flexibility, strength, and balance. It also describes how bettering your health in these aspects will enhance your daily activities.
The second chapter helps you identify your fitness level and set realistic goals to boost it. It also discusses the importance of talking to your doctor before beginning any exercise program and the possibility of enlisting a personal trainer to help you reach your fitness goals. There is even a checklist that you can use to find a personal trainer who’s right for you.
Chapter three discusses how to add more physical activity to your everyday life. It addresses the reality that your exercise routine may sometimes be interrupted by unforeseen circumstances and how you get back on track. There is also information on how to avoid injury while exercising.
Chapter four has sample exercises for you to try. The equipment needed, proper positioning, and step-by-step instructions are included. It gives you a general guideline about how often and how much you should exercise. It also stresses stretching before beginning any routine to reduce the chance of injury. Finally, the chapter shows you how to gauge how intense your activity is.
The fifth chapter provides tools that you can use to measure your progress. It also gives you recommendations on when it’s time to up your exercise intensity or the number of repetitions. As you become fitter, you’ll see specific changes in your mood, energy level, and pain levels.
The sixth chapter discusses how nutritious eating habits help maintain your health. The suggestions are based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) as well as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Chapter seven has worksheets to track your activities. You can and should make several copies of these useful charts to use over the long-term.
First, you’ll find an activity log to track how active you are currently and brainstorm ways to increase your activity level. Next, there is a worksheet on short and long-term goal setting. Here you can record 2 or 3 goals and track your progress toward achieving them over six months, a year, or two years.
After that, you’ll find a weekly exercise and physical activity plan with suggestions on how often to do each group of exercises. The Endurance Daily Record sheet can be used to record your endurance as you build up to at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity every day.
The Strength Daily Record allows you to track your daily strength exercises by recording the number of repetitions and the weight amount for both upper and lower body workouts. It would be best if you worked up to doing strength-training exercises two or more days per week in 30-minute sessions.
You can record your weekly flexibility exercise repetitions on the Flexibility Daily Record. The Monthly Progress Test can help you keep track of your improvements in endurance, upper and lower body strength, balance, and flexibility.
The next section has 20 frequently asked questions about aging, exercise, and physical activity. Scientifically sound answers are provided on whether training is for everyone, how hard you should exercise, and what type of equipment you need to get started.
Physical Activity for Seniors Further Reading
This handy guidebook also includes a list of resources for more information about physical activity and exercise for older adults. You can find out more from the National Institute on Aging Information Center, National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, and Office of Dietary Supplements National Institutes of Health, among other organizations.
The information in this booklet is practical and pertinent for seniors and their caretakers. So if you’re ready to improve your activity level, download a copy of the NIH Aging Exercise and Physical Activity Guide today.
If you want additional reading to improve and maintain physical activity for seniors, consider these books:
- 6-Minute Fitness at 60+: Simple Home Exercises to Reclaim Strength, Balance, and Energy in 15 Days
- Fitness Over Fifty: An Exercise Guide from the National Institute on Aging
- Stay Fit for Life: More than 60 Exercises to Restore Your Strength and Future-Proof Your Body
- Strength Training for Seniors: Increase Your Balance, Stability, and Stamina to Rewind the Aging Process
Stay mindful, stay healthy, stay active!