The Best Ways for Adults Over 65 to Get Physical
As we age, we may slow down but it is important to never stop moving. Staying physically active is essential for adults to maintain their independence throughout their lives. The CDC recommends that adults over the age of 65 should complete at least 150 minutes of moderate activity per week. For example, a common routine might look like 30 minutes of activity a day, 5 days a week. Additionally, adults should aim for at least 2 days of strength activities and 3 days of activities that focus on balance.
While the CDC’s suggested routine may seem overwhelming to those who are getting back in the swing of things, it doesn’t take long for the body to acclimate and begin showing improvements. Overall, it’s most important that adults choose physical activities they enjoy in order to maintain consistency.
Why is Staying Active Important?
Being physically active throughout your life sets you up for a more enjoyable aging process. Daily activities like eating, bathing, using the toilet, getting dressed, getting up and down and moving around the house can become difficult overtime if you aren’t getting enough physical exercise. Plus, being physically active decreases your chances of falling and incurring a serious injury. Exercise is especially important for women because after menopause they begin naturally losing bone density faster than men.
The Best Workouts for Adults
Staying strong and active can help delay natural aging like reduced muscle and bone mass. The best strength training exercises for aging adults mimic normal daily activities.
“One of the best indicators of morbidity and mortality is the ability to stand up from a chair without using your hands to help in any way,” says Heather Mims, a doctor of physical therapy and certified orthopedic specialist at New York City’s Tula PT & Wellness.
To practice this skill, sit in a chair and use your legs–not your hands–to help you stand up; repeat 10 times. If you’re a little shaky, place a second chair in front of you for increased safety.
Adults can support their independence, mobility, and range of motion by focusing on their flexibility. As we age, flexibility is vital for sustaining your ability to stand and walk without exertion. Aim to complete stretches that target the shoulders, hips and legs to decrease your chances of experiencing problems with balance and gait.
A study published in the Journal of Gerontology found that participants in a 12-month stretch and flex program reported decreased pain and positive changes in physical fitness, self-efficacy, perceived functioning, and well-being.
Healthline outlines a comprehensive list of stretches for the neck, arms, back, hips, and legs to help maintain flexibility long term.
We all laughed at the commercial made popular in the late 80s and early 90s with the catchphrase, “I've fallen, and I can't get up!”, but it depicted a scene that can be very real later in our lives. Accidental falls are commonly associated with fractures, head injuries, and additional problems that can harm your physical and mental health. We achieve balance thanks to a combination of vision, the inner ear, and touch. Working on your balance can help prevent your musculoskeletal systems from rapid decline.
Tai chi may help the body improve self-awareness within a space to help reduce the risk of falling. Aim to strengthen the hips and legs in particular to further improve your balance.
4. Aerobic Exercises
Moderate-intensity aerobic activity like walking, cycling, swimming and dancing can have significant benefits to your heart, brain, skin, and immune system.
- Heart Health: Researchers found that those who participated in higher-intensity exercises saw significant improvements in their heart's performance, which suggests that some stiffening in the heart may be prevented or possibly reversed with regular cardio.
- Brain Health: A study found that physically fit middle-aged women were roughly 88% less likely to develop dementia. A separate study of adult women found a tie between aerobic exercise and a larger hippocampus, the area of the brain involved with learning and memory.
- Skin Health: People over 40 who regularly participated in cardio had healthier skin than those who were more sedentary, in fact, their skin was more comparable to 20-to 30-year-olds. Healthier skin after exercise may be attributed to elevated levels of IL-15, a substance critical to cell health.
- Immune System: After comparing 125 amateur cyclists between the ages of 55 and 79 to 75 adults of a similar age who rarely or never exercised, the cyclists appeared to have healthier and younger-looking immune systems.
Tips for Staying Safe During and After Exercise
- Start Slow: A steady rate of progress can help decrease the chances of overexertion and injuries.
- Take Care of Your Muscles: Always include time to warm-up and cool down during workouts.
- Pay Attention: Watch your step when exercising outdoors to decrease the risk of falling.
- Drink Water: It’s important to hydrate before, during, and after you exercise.
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Consult a trainer, physical therapist, or doctor before starting a new exercise plan. Choose an exercise plan that you feel comfortable doing and enjoy so that you’re more likely to be consistent. Most importantly, have fun!
Tavel, Rachel. “A Guide To The Best Exercises For Seniors.” Forbes. 2022.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “How much physical activity do older adults need?”
Freutel, Natasha. “Stretching Exercises for Seniors to Improve Mobility.” Healthline. 2019.
National Institute on Aging. “How Older Adults Can Get Started with Exercise.” 2020.