When the US Department of Health and Human Service’s introduced guidelines for physical activity in 2008, they included specific recommendations for older people. The guidelines encourage all Americans to engage in some sort of physical activity. For optimal health, they recommend a total of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week, or 75 minutes total of vigorous activity. For additional health benefits, 300 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity is recommended, or 150 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity.
The department suggests that older people especially perform two sessions of muscle- and bone-building resistance training a week. Balance exercises three times a week to prevent falls are recommended for those 65 and older.
Regular exercise can help boost energy, maintain your independence, and manage symptoms of illness or pain. Exercise can even reverse some of the symptoms of aging. And not only is exercise good for your body, it’s also good for your mind, mood, and memory. Whether you are generally healthy or are managing an illness, there are plenty of ways to get more active, improve confidence, and boost your fitness.
Starting or maintaining a regular exercise routine can be challenging, as you get older. If you’ve never exercised before, you may not know where to begin. You may be concerned about doing more harm than good. Or maybe you’re of the mindset that “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” But, none of these are reasons to give up.
No matter your age or your current physical condition, you can benefit from exercise. Reaping the rewards of exercise doesn’t require strenuous workouts or trips to the gym. It’s about adding more movement and activity to your life, even in small ways. Whether you are generally healthy or are managing an illness—even if you’re housebound—there are many easy ways to get your body moving and improve your health. These types of exercise are especially beneficial to older adults:
- Walking - it’s the perfect way to start exercising. It requires no special equipment, aside from a pair of comfortable walking shoes, and can be done anywhere.
- Senior sports or fitness classes – these classes can help keep you motivated while also providing a source of fun, stress relief, and a place to meet friends.
- Water aerobics and water sports – working out in water is wonderful for seniors because water reduces stress and strain on the body’s joints.
- Yoga – this calming exercise combines a series of poses with breathing. Moving through the poses works on strength, flexibility and balance. You don’t have to be super flexible to benefit. Yoga can be adapted to any level.
- Tai Chi and Qi Gong – these martial arts-inspired systems of movement increase balance and strength. Classes for seniors are often available at your local YMCA or community center.