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Physical Activity for Seniors

Why is physical activity important?

We have all heard that we should get more exercise, but why is this so important?  A healthy and fit body will enable you to meet the challenges of daily life and accomplish your dreams.  By being more active, you can prevent chronic disease and manage your weight better.  As we age, the need to take care of ourselves becomes even more important.

Remember that doing any exercise or physical movement is better than doing none. If you are not very active right now, start by doing some today and gradually building on that each day.  Eventually, you should progress to the point where you can exercise or be physically active for at least 30 minutes per day on most days of the week.

 

 

Why should seniors care about physical activity?

Keeping as active as possible is a great way to gain so many benefits in your life.  Here are just a few:

  • Slowing the aging process
  • Avoiding frailty
  • Boost your resilience
  • Prevent disease and illness (such as arthritis, diabetes, and dementia)
  • Opportunity for social interaction
  • Promotes relaxation
  • Helps us to get better, deeper, more restorative sleep
  • Feeling happier
  • Better mood and healthier state of mind
  • Prevent or reduce depression by lessening stress hormones in the brain
  • Healthy blood pressure
  • Maintain healthy weight
  • Stronger muscles, joints and bones
  • Increase energy level
  • Better looking skin
  • Improved mental health and memory
  • Clearer thinking
  • Keeps your learning and judgement skills sharp
  • Reduction in pain
  • Lowers your risk of heart disease
  • Reduce your blood cholesterol levels
  • Helps your body manage blood sugar and insulin levels
  • Reduces risk of certain cancers
  • Recover better from hospitalization or bed rest
  • Better mobility
  • Reduces your risk of falls
  • Better balance
  • Increase your chances of living longer and thriving

Doesn’t this sound like a great way to live?

 

What are the best physical activities & active hobbies for seniors?

Staying active throughout our lives is important.  Not only does our physical health depend on it, but our emotional and mental well being is also improved from the increased blood flow in our bodies and brains.

Keep in mind that there are different categories of physical activity.  Some exercise helps to strengthen muscles and bones, such as lifting weights.  Some is cardiovascular in nature, meaning that it helps your heart be a healthier pump for your blood throughout your body. This includes walking and swimming, and basically any activity that raises your heart rate.  And, flexibility is important, too.  So remember to stretch before and after your exercise.

Here are some ideas for activities and hobbies that can keep us physically fit throughout the years:

  • Yoga
  • Weight lifting (you can use items around the house, such as canned goods)
  • Bicycling
  • Working in the garden (and container gardening counts, too)
  • Cooking
  • Baking (mix ingredients by hand for a great upper body workout)
  • Playing golf
  • Tai chi
  • Walking
  • Pilates
  • Playing tennis
  • Dancing
  • Swimming
  • Fishing
  • Taking care of pets
  • Working in the yard (e.g. raking leaves)
  • Volunteering at a local animal shelter

 

How to keep seniors with dementia active?

  • Start with activities that they have enjoyed in the past
  • Make sure that the activity is well organized and structured
  • Even every day activities can be used as physical activity (cooking and cleaning)
  • Monitor for frustration if the activity is too challenging
  • Watch for boredom if the activity is too easy
  • The fewer the instructions needed, the better
  • Limit the time of the activity to less than one hour
  • Remember to be patient
  • Take care not to discourage them with your facial expression or body language

 

How many calories will I burn?

The number of calories burned with physical activity can be measured with a fitness tracker band, bracelet or watch.  This amount of calorie expenditure generally depends on the amount of your physical exertion as well as your weight.  One way to estimate the amount of calories burned is to use an online calorie calculator.

Here is a rough estimate of how many calories that you can expect to burn in 30 minutes of these activities:

  • Walking – 167 calories
  • Swimming – 225 calories
  • Bicycling – 260 calories
  • Golfing without using cart – 205 calories
  • Golfing using cart – 130 calories
  • Dancing – 223 calories
  • Playing tennis – 260 calories
  • Gardening – 167 calories
  • Yoga – 149 calories

 

There are many activity trackers available today.  If you have not heard of these before, it is time you did.  These devices help you keep track of the time spent exercising, the distance you covered, the number of steps you took, the calories you burned, and your heart rate.  This information is great for making sure you are getting enough exercise, and also that you aren’t overexerting yourself.

Keeping track of your progress is a great motivator to keep going.  One of the easiest to use fitness tracker watches with the largest, clearest display is the Garmin Forerunner 35.  I think you will really enjoy it!

 

Putting it all together…

No matter how many birthdays you have celebrated, as long as you are alive there is reason to treasure and promote your good health.  Your chronological age (based on your birth certificate) is not the same as your biological age (how good you feel and how healthy your body is today).

Regardless of how old you are, you can thrive (and not just survive).  Every time you move your body and eat healthy food moves you in the right direction.  Never stop living the best possible life that you can.  You deserve it.

Aim to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day.  Incorporate more activity into your daily life whenever possible.  Every step counts.  Park your car farther from the store and use the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator whenever possible.

Please check with your health care provider before starting any new exercise program.  Always remember that being active everyday is better than being active for just a few days per week, but build up your stamina safely as you go.

Feel free to leave me a note below to let me know what you think of my article. I love hearing how people are staying healthy, at every age.  Let’s keep the conversation going!

 

 

 

 

Brian

8 Comments

  1. This article has so many valid reasons for why it is important for seniors to involve in physical activities. The physical activities listed in this post are really suitable for seniors. It is not something really hard, I think all the activities are doable for all the seniors. This article is really helpful and informative.

    Thank you for sharing this article.

    • Hi there, and thank you for your comments on the physical activities I have recommended to keep seniors healthy and fit.  I agree that they are not difficult and should be possible for the majority of folks out there.  If you can add to my list, please let me know.  Once again, thanks for reading my article and taking the time to write back.

  2. Such an important article you’ve written here. Nice job. Activity is the key to keeping that blood flowing, literally. Low impact movements are important, and just keeping moving is so important as our body begins to enter those later years. I like the list you’ve given showing all the diverse activities that can be beneficial. Great article for those of us having to take care of our aging loved ones.

    • Hello Eric, and thanks very much for your comments about helping seniors stay active and healthy.  I think most of us know someone who is getting older and may need to be reminded of the importance of keeping that blood flowing.  I love how you said that.  Thanks again and best wishes to you and your family.

  3. Brian, I enjoyed reading your article. You included lots of great ideas for seniors to choose from.  My mother will be turning 80 in a few months and she recently joined a gym, which is wonderful. She was pleasantly surprised to find out about a benefit on her medicare supplement plan that pays the monthly dues in full. Many gyms also provide classes specifically designed for seniors.  It’s a great way for them to be active socially and physically. Thanks again for a great article.

    • Hello Suzanne,  That is wonderful news about your Mom still being active and enjoying the gym!  My neighborhood gym has also recently started holding classes geared towards seniors, focusing on balance and strength.  I think it’s wonderful, don’t you?  We will all be there someday, and how great to live our whole lives to the fullest.  Thanks for your terrific comments and for taking the time to read my article.  All the best to you and your Mom,  Brian

  4. I’m 57 and my husband is 52, and we started walking on the treadmill and working out with weights about a month ago to get into better shape.  We’re both enjoying it more than I thought we would, so I want to get us both a fitness tracker and really keep track of our progress.  I like the Garmin you recommend and am looking at the white one for me.  Do you know if the band is easy to clean or if it would start looking dingy?

    • Hi Janelle,  thank you very much for taking the time to read my article and leave such great comments.  I completely agree on how fun it is to use a fitness tracker.  I think you will enjoy a Garmin, and the bands are not only easily cleaned, but easily changed out if you’d like to change the look of it.   Let me know what you think of it!  Best wishes,  Brian

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