By Lindsey Reynolds, PA-C

As we get older, we tend to become less active for a variety of reasons. But did you know, staying active is one of the most important things you can do as you get older? Well it is! Exercise is recommended for everyone and brings many potential health benefits along with it. If you do not exercise regularly it is important to speak with your medical provider before starting an exercise routine, but once you have clearance from your medical provider, choose to get moving!

Why do I need to exercise?

The American Academy of Family Physicians lists some of the following as the health benefits of physical activity in adults:

  • Decreased risk of heart disease, stroke other metabolic health problems
  • Improved cognitive function
  • Reduction of falls in the elderly
  • Improvements in bone density
  • Improved quality of sleep

Exercise has many health benefits and as you enter the later stages of life, these benefits are more important. Keeping active and taking part in regular exercise could reduce the medical problems you encounter over time and improve quality of life.

What types of exercise are going to be best for me as a senior / older adult?

One Geriatric Medicine professional listed several areas of exercise which are most beneficial to older adults including:

  • Strength training – such as free weights or weight bearing exercise
  • Balance exercises – such as back and leg raises
  • Stretching and flexibility exercises – such as general daily stretching or yoga

The Silver Sneakers senior exercise organization lists some types of exercise that is typically more convenient or easier to accomplish for seniors / older adults including:

  • Swimming – helps with strength and cardiovascular health without weight bearing stress on joints
  • Yoga – helps with stability and flexibility
  • Resistance Band Training – helps with strengthening muscles, while being easy to do at home
  • Walking – helps with strength and cardiovascular health
  • Aerobic exercise classes – helps with cardiovascular health and allows for social interaction via a class setting

How much exercise do I really need to do?

The World Health Organization currently recommends:

  • At least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise over the week
  • At least 10 minutes duration per episode of aerobic activity
  • For older adults with poor mobility, to prevent falls, 3 or more days per week of some physical activity
  • If older adults cannot perform the recommended amounts of physical activity, do as much as your physical ability and conditions will allow each week

As you begin an exercise routine, you should start slow and build upon your progress over time. If you are new to exercise and are unsure where to start, you can join a class or a gym or even get a personal trainer to help you learn more about certain exercises and who will help you get started. If you prefer to do exercise at home, there are many instructional videos online which can help you get started. Adding some type of exercise and movement into your weekly routine along the above stated guidelines, will increase your chances of the many health related benefits of exercising. Whether you can exercise regularly at a high capacity or periodically at a lower capacity, the more you move and exercise, the greater the benefit to your health. Choose an activity you enjoy, activities you can do based upon your current health problems and consider help from your medical provider along the way if you are having trouble exercising due to physical complaints. One way or another – choose to move; your health awaits.