By Sandy Barnes
A well-planned exercise program can improve strength, endurance, flexibility and balance for senior adults. Some studies indicate that routine exercise can also help mental functioning and reduce the risk of age-related dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.
Exercise can be a fun and social activity, especially if seniors participate in group classes. Whether exercising with a group or on your own, there are many beneficial options from which to choose. For maximum benefit, the National Institutes of Health recommends a combination of four kinds of exercise to enhance overall physical health.
Exercises to build muscular strength include simple side arm raises, bicep curls and leg flexion. It’s probably best to start strength training without using weights, and then add them gradually over time. Abdominal exercises are considered essential in a strength training routine because of the importance of this group of muscles to core functioning.
To be effective, strength training should include eight to 16 repetitions of each exercise done at least twice a week. A day of rest in between sessions is beneficial for building muscle tissue.
When doing strength-building exercises, it is essential to breathe properly and to avoid a tendency to hold your breath. Also it is important to keep joints unlocked and to use smooth, steady movements. It is also recommended that people check with their physicians before beginning an exercise program, especially if they have been inactive over a period of time.
Exercising for endurance and cardiovascular health can be as pleasant and easy as an early morning walk around the neighborhood. Again it’s best to start slowly, with a short 10 minute walk, and build up to about a total of 30 minutes a day. Other types of endurance exercise are riding a bicycle, swimming and gardening. It’s essential to stay well hydrated during endurance exercises by drinking water before, during and after sessions. A total of 30 minutes of aerobic exercise on most days is recommended by health and fitness experts for maximum effectiveness. However, any amount of exercise can be beneficial.
Stretching muscles to keep them flexible is best done at the end of a workout. Using gentle, sustained movement and holding a stretch at least 10 seconds is generally recommended. Examples of stretches include a side arm raise overhead and extending a leg and reaching for a toe while seated in a chair.
A favorite balance exercise for many seniors is standing on one foot for a few seconds. When first doing this exercise, it is best to hold onto a chair, and then letting go when comfortable.
A certified instructor with experience in working with senior adults can be a great help in learning and mastering exercises and implementing programs designed to improve physical well being.