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Fitness for Older Adults Doesn’t Have to Be Hard

By Fitoru | 11 March 2020
older adults doing yoga

There’s a beauty and grace to growing older. We’re blessed with greater wisdom, more ease and moderation, and comfortability in our own skins. But advancing age can also mean more body aches, a sedentary lifestyle, and an increased risk of illness. Know what can keep the grace higher than the pangs of growing older? Fitness for older adults! 

Contrary to popular belief, fitness doesn’t have to be backbreaking. It can be enjoyable, energizing, and accessible for all ages and skill levels. So come with us as we explore the best options for fitness for older adults so you can get moving again…and joyfully so!

If You’re Not Moving, You’re Slowing Killing Yourself

Apologies for the sensationalist headline, but it’s true. 

If you sit for more than 3 hours a day, you’re taking at least 2 years off your lifespan, say researchers in the journal BMJ Open (1).

Other research indicates the same, and it is a well known fact that the increased weight gain and muscle loss that characterize aging not only reduce your quality of life and function, but also increase your risk of fractures, falls, disease, and death. 

It’s never too late to get moving, and physical activity becomes even more important as you age. 

If you’re in your 80s and have avoided regular exercise and lived a sedentary lifestyle for all 80 of those years, not to worry! You can still greatly improve your well-being and overall quality of life by adding some movement into the mix. In fact, a study published in the International Journal of Stroke showed that older people who took up physical fitness later in life reduced their risk of stroke by half (2). It’s safe to say that they slashed their risk of other illnesses and life-threatening cardiovascular events while they were at it. 

Health Benefits of Exercise at Every Age

Research suggests that men and women in their 70s who engage in regular physical activity have the heart, lungs, and muscle health of people 30 years younger (3). 

You’d better believe they are feeling more energetic and sharper than their counterparts who aren’t exercising. 

In addition to protecting against heart disease, exercise boosts energy, improves mind, mood, and memory, increases self-confidence, and helps you sleep better. 

And get ready for the really great news…

The National Institutes of Health recommends getting at least 2.5 hours of moderate or 1.25 hours of vigorous activity a week, but Harvard University researchers discovered that you can get the benefits of exercise and extend your lifespan by as much as 3 years with just 15 minutes of exercise a day (4)!

So now that we’ve convinced you to get physical, let’s explore the best types of fitness for older adults so you can find the workout program that’s right for you.

Top picks for fitness for older adults

Types of Fitness for Older Adults

The right types of exercise for you will be:

  1. Enjoyable
  2. Healthful
  3. Accessible

All of the workout suggestions below are proven to help enhance your overall wellness so you can live longer and stronger.

Walking

Walk your way to heart and lung health, increase your strength and endurance, and build stronger bones and lean muscle. 

Brisk walking for 30 minutes a day improves your overall health and, according to a study published in PLOS One, can slash your risk of mortality by nearly 50% when you increase your steps to 10,000 a day (5). 

We here at Fitoru are huge fans of walking, which is why we developed a 21-day walking program for all exercise levels. Get started with the video below.

Swimming

Easy on the joints, swimming is a cardiovascular exercise that’s great for people with arthritis or osteoporosis that flares up with other types of physical activities. 

But swimming doesn’t just work out your muscles. According to a 2012 study from the Journal of Aging Research, swimming also helps strengthen your mental faculties (6).

If you love the water but physical limitations prevent you from swimming, then give a water aerobics class a try!

Yoga and Tai Chi

These gentle Eastern exercise modalities are low-impact and help to build balance, strength, and whole-body mobility, as well as to improve your range of motion.

Yoga is also a terrific weight-bearing activity that helps to build bones and is often recommended as ideal exercise for seniors.

If you like group fitness classes, then take the leap and look for a yoga or tai chi studio near you. Or get started right now with these easy yoga poses you can do in the comfort of your own home.

Cycling

If advancing age is manifesting as knee pain, it might be time to trade in the running for some cycling. Cycling is a low-impact, lower body workout that builds leg strength and gets your heart rate up.

A 2017 study published in the European Review of Aging and Physical Activity revealed that cycling promotes heart health, metabolic health, and brain function in older adults. 

Pilates

Like yoga and tai chi, pilates is an approachable and low-impact muscle-strengthening workout for people of all ages and fitness levels. The focus is on core stability, and a weekly pilates class can help you improve your balance and decrease your risk of falls.

Resistance Bands

Portable and highly effective for strength training, resistance bands can be used to work out every part of the body…legs, arms, back, and all. 

Check out this 15-minute beginner full-body resistance band workout from ACHV Peak.

Bodyweight Training

But really folks, all it takes to get in shape, increase longevity, and improve your quality of life with fitness is your own bodyweight

You can start with simple chair squats, build up to weighted chair squats, single leg stands, pushups and planks. And if you’re new to exercise, we suggest working with a personal trainer who specializes in fitness for older adults and can develop a personalized bodyweight training program you can perform anywhere, anytime.

Final Thoughts on Building Your Exercise Routine

Everyone is different. Some people appreciate the comfort of routine and prefer to keep their exercise program the same. Others like variety, and if that’s you, then joining a gym and participating in exercise classes of all types may be your best option.

At the heart of every workout program is strength, mobility, and balance. So challenge yourself to increase your daily activity level when you reach plateaus, keep moving, and stay balanced through it all.

And remember, Fitoru Fitness is here for you. Subscribe to our YouTube channel for easy-to-follow workouts and fitness advice!

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