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Senior friends exercising outdoors

Why Exercise is Essential for Seniors

Exercise is an important part of staying healthy, especially when you get older.

Physical activity can boost your mood, help you maintain a healthy weight and lower your risk for chronic diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure and osteoporosis. Exercise is essential for seniors, but older adults also have lower bone density, muscle mass and an increased risk of falls as they age, which increases the chances of injury when you exercise.

Before you get moving, here are some precautions to take:

Talk to Your Doctor

Before you begin any exercise routine, it’s important to check with your doctor first. If you have a previous injury or condition, this could affect the type of exercises you can perform. People with heart conditions, asthma or lung disease, especially, should be careful about doing rigorous exercise. Brisk walking at a steady pace is usually safe for most older adults, but if you have an existing condition talk to your doctor about the types of exercise that will help you stay active without increasing your injury risk.

Wear the Right Clothing

Wear the right shoes when you exercise. If you plan to jog or power walk, wear shoes that offer enough support for your feet. Wearing the wrong shoes can increase the impact on your joints every time your feet hit the ground, leading to aches, pains and injuries that could prevent you from regularly exercising in the future. Also wear shoes that aren’t worn out. If you have a pair of sneakers that are 10 years old (or more), chances are it’s time to get a new pair that offers more heel and sole support.

Also wear comfortable clothing, like jogging pants or sweatpants, and a loose shirt that allow you to move freely when you exercise.

Stay Hydrated

If you are going for a long walk or jog or participate in water aerobics, make sure you stay hydrated. Bring a bottle of water along with you when you exercise, especially when it’s hot outside. Increased temperatures and humidity cause us to sweat more and increase our water loss, so make sure you stay hydrated.

Be Careful About Weight Training

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that people age 65 years and older who are fit do strength training at least two or more days a week. This training includes activities that work all the major muscle groups in the legs, hips, arms, back and other areas of the body. You can do bicep curls, squats, back leg raises or knee curls. However, I recommend that seniors start off with light weights — no more than 7 pounds — that you can lift for at least eight repetitions. Taking it slow with weight training will reduce your risk of injury.

Listen to Your Body

Exercise is beneficial for your health, but you also need to be careful when you do it. Listen to your body. If you have chest pain, a rapid heartbeat, feel dizzy or experience swelling in your joints, you may need to rest and let your body recover. If you experience heart-related issues when you exercise, you should see a doctor as soon as possible because these issues could signal a more serious problem that your doctor needs to check out.

The CDC recommends that older adults get 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week. For seniors, this activity can include brisk walking for 30 minutes a day, five times a week. Water aerobics and gardening also are good ways to increase your level of physical activity.

But whatever you do, it’s important to get moving and stay active. At MetroHealth, we offer weekly Zumba classes at no cost for MetroHealth patients. These modified, lower-intensity Zumba classes are a great way for to improve cardiovascular health, muscular conditioning, flexibility and balance. Remember, even a few minutes a day will improve your overall health.

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