The month of May is a great time to get moving. In fact, this is officially National Physical Fitness and Sports Month, which is an opportunity to celebrate and promote physical activity. Fitness is important for all ages and is one of the best tools to help combat chronic diseases. Even a single session of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity can boost your mood, sharpen your focus, reduce stress, and improve sleep.
When it comes to senior health specifically, doctors recommend getting at least 2.5 hours of moderate exercise every week. That averages out to about 30 minutes a day. If that number seems high, keep in mind exercise can come in many forms, like gardening, golf, and dancing! It helps to mix it up, too. Research shows we need four specific types of exercises: endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility. With this in mind, we created a list of activities that checks off all four categories. As with any new fitness routine, be sure to consult with your doctor before trying these exercises.
- Walking: Experts agree that walking is probably the best exercise for seniors, as it's one of the most accessible ways to get your heart pumping. For many, a goal of 10,000 steps per day is advised. If walking is more of a challenge, start tracking the number of steps that feels comfortable and work toward increasing that number over time. Any amount of walking is beneficial in strengthening muscles, reducing the risk for chronic conditions, and improving your overall health. So, keep up those steps.
- Dumbbell Strength Training: Dumbbell exercises are some of the best ways to strength train if they are performed with the proper precautions. Holding dumbbells in each hand allows you to isolate and strengthen specific muscle groups that can help with improving balance and flexibility. This type of strength work also creates a higher metabolism and enhanced glucose control, which is particularly beneficial for conditions such as diabetes.
- Resistance Band Workouts: While dumbbells require lifting weight, resistance bands are stretchy strips of lightweight rubber that add resistance to a workout with reduced stress on your body. These types of workouts are user-friendly and accessible for beginners. Resistance bands are also relatively inexpensive, making them ideal for at-home exercise. You can get a great full-body workout with resistance bands, including your core muscles. Having a strong core improves your posture, mobility, and balance.
- Bodyweight Workouts: Similar to dumbbells and resistance bands, bodyweight workouts are a great way to build strength and counteract the effects of muscle atrophy as we get older. Compared to other strength training exercises, one of the most significant benefits of bodyweight workouts is affordability and access. You only need yourself, a little bit of space, and a workout plan. Finding a good workout plan is pretty easy with so many free resources online. Some bodyweight exercises are more comfortable on a mat to soften the impact on the floor, so that could be the only thing you would need to purchase.
- Chair Yoga: Chair yoga is a style of yoga that doesn't put as much stress on muscles, joints, and bones as more conventional forms of yoga. As the name implies, it's performed seated in a chair and consists of low-impact poses, gentle stretching, and breathwork. The intended outcome is improved muscle strength, mobility, balance, and flexibility - all of which are crucial health aspects of a healthy life. As a bonus, regular chair yoga participants have reported better quality sleep, lower instances of depression, and a general sense of well-being.
- Pilates: Pilates is a popular low-impact form of exercise developed over a century ago. It concentrates on strengthening the body with an emphasis on core strength. Similar to yoga, pilates focuses on posture, balance, and flexibility. It typically involves mats, pilates balls, and other inflated accessories to help build strength without the stress of higher-impact exercises.
- Dancing: Moving to the rhythm of music can be an extremely satisfying activity that allows you to explore your creative side. It's also highly beneficial as it helps you burn calories, build muscle, and enhance your flexibility and endurance. Dancing is an easy activity for people of all skill levels, and it's something fun to do with loved ones and friends. Not sure how to dance or where to begin? You may enjoy jamming along with tutorial videos or DVDs designed specifically for seniors.
- Gardening & Yard Games: As we mentioned initially, exercise comes in many forms. It doesn't have to require weights, mats, or special shoes. If you love being outdoors, try some fun activities like gardening. Tending a garden requires constant movement that can provide an excellent workout. Gardening is also a great way to get fresh air, sunshine, and vitamin D. And, if you grow your own herbs, fruits, and vegetables, there's the added benefit of enjoying the nutritious fruits of your labor.
Yard games like croquet, bean bag toss, horseshoes, and frisbee are also an excellent way to bend, stretch, and move your body - while socializing with friends!
There are plenty of ways to feel fit and fabulous when you're 50+, and we hope you have fun trying out a few new moves. If you'd like some free exercise videos, the National Institute on Aging offers quite a few options on its YouTube channel. Here's a variety of exercise videos to check out.
If you'd like to see some of the activities that come with all-inclusive living at Resort Lifestyle Communities, we encourage you to tour a community near you. We'd love to show you around - and help you get in a few extra steps for the day!
Get Fit for Free
Exercise is the key to healthy aging, and the National Institute on Aging offers a list of ways to get fit for free! You can download them here.