Exercise is great for adults of all ages, especially seniors. Many seniors underestimate the many benefits of physical activity or—what’s worse—believe harmful myths that prevent them from experiencing the benefits of exercising. It’s helpful to understand how you can benefit from safe physical activity and how you can tailor activities to your health and activity level.
Benefits of Exercise for Older Adults
Regular exercise can help:
- Prevent bone loss
- Relieve osteoarthritis pain
- Prevent chronic disease
- Boost immunity
- Improve mood and self-confidence
- Reduce inflammation
- Improve chronic health conditions
- Manage or prevent anxiety and depression
- Maintain the ability to live independently
- Reduce the risk of falls and broken bones
- Reduce the risk of dying from coronary heart disease
- Reduce the risk of high blood pressure, colon cancer, and diabetes
- Improve stamina and muscle strength
- Maintain healthy bones, muscles, and joints
- Maintain weight or contribute to weight loss
- Maintain healthy digestive functioning
- Reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and osteoporosis
- Enhance flexibility and balance
- Improve sleep
- Prevent memory loss, cognitive decline, and dementia
Exercise Ideas for Seniors
Older adults have a range of options for safe and effective exercise, including:
- Pilates – helps build a strong core, improve balance and stability, and reduce symptoms of arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease.
- Aerobics – helps boost cardiovascular function, strengthen lungs, and improve overall body strength.
- Strength training – low-impact bodyweight training exercises can help build muscle and burn body fat.
Specific exercises and physical activity that older adults can engage in include:
- Cycling on a stationary bike
- Wall push-ups
- Stair climbing
- Single-leg stands
- Resistance band exercises
- Weight lifting
Myths About Physical Activity & Aging
Many older adults believe myths about physical activity that keep them from exercising. Here are a few myths to recognize and reject.
Myth 1: “What’s the point of exercising? I’m going to get old anyway.”
Fact: Regular physical activity helps seniors look and feel younger and maintain their independence. It also lowers their risk for a variety of conditions, including Alzheimer’s and dementia, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity. In addition, the impact of exercise on mood can be just as great for older adults as for younger adults.
Myth 2: “Exercise is physically dangerous.”
Fact: Gentle and consistent exercise will help build strength and stamina, prevent bone loss, and improve balance, thereby reducing a senior’s risk of injury.
Myth 3: “It’s too difficult. I’ll never be as athletic as I used to be.”
Fact: Though older adults experience changes in hormones, metabolism, bone density, and muscle mass, this doesn’t mean they can’t derive a sense of achievement from physical activity or improve their health. The key is to set age-appropriate lifestyle goals.
Myth 4: “I’m too old to start exercising.”
Fact: Nobody is ever too old or unwell to exercise and improve their health! Simply begin with gentle activities and build up from there.
Myth 5: “I can’t exercise because I’m disabled.”
Fact: Seniors unable to stand or walk can lift light weights, stretch, and do chair aerobics, chair yoga, and chair tai chi to increase their range of motion, improve muscle tone and flexibility, and promote cardiovascular health.
Myth 6: “I’m too weak and have too much pain.”
Fact: Physical activity can help seniors manage pain and improve their strength and self-confidence. Just make sure you ask your doctor about the best types of exercise to try.