Remember, from our last blog, “Feel Better As You Age By Exercising,” your purpose for exercising is to stay healthy enough to continue participating in the activities you enjoy, which is why we focus on aerobics, strength, balance and flexibility. Each of these directly affect your ability to be independent and move around.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, people 65 and older should get about 150 minutes of exercise at moderate intensity, or 75 minutes at vigorous intensity, per week. Activities in the “moderate intensity” category include brisk walking, dancing, gardening, housework and carrying small items of 40 pounds or less. Vigorous intensity includes more strenuous activities like jogging, walking briskly uphill, fast cycling, aerobics and carrying larger items weighing more than 40 pounds.
As you build your conditioning up, start with low-impact activities that are less likely to cause problems in your feet, ankles, knees and hips. These include walking, cycling, swimming, water aerobics, tai chi and ballroom dancing.
Also, it’s a good idea to use a heart-rate monitor to measure your heart rate while you’re exercising. There are even smartphone apps that you can use to measure heart rate. Target heart rates for aerobic exercise, based on age, are:
- 60-69: 112-136 beats per minute
- 70-79: 105-128 beats per minute
- 80-89: 98-119 beats per minute
- 90-99: 91-111 beats per minute
Some people believe that, at a certain age, it’s impossible to build muscle strength, but this is a myth. In fact, the CDC recommends that seniors participate in strength or resistance training twice a week. A good goal is to make each session last about 30 minutes. The benefit of strength training is that it allows you to maintain enough strength to get up and move around easily, lift small items around the house, play golf when you like and even hold your grandchildren.
While you might want to join a fitness club, you don’t have to. Remember, you’re not trying to impress anyone with how much you can bench press. You can buy small hand weights or resistance bands at any sporting goods store and do your exercises just as easily at home. There are also plenty of strength training exercises that use your own body weight for resistance, such as push-ups or sit-ups. The important thing to remember is to spread the exercises throughout all the major muscle groups, including your arms, chest, shoulders, back, abdomen and legs.
Using light weights or resistance bands, do three sets of ten repetitions on each of the following, resting for a minute between each set:
- Bicep curls
- Tricep extensions
- Chest presses
Then do three sets of ten reps on these exercises, which use your own body weight for resistance:
- Push-ups with your hands at a higher level than your feet, or from your knees
- Squats, holding a sturdy chair or rail for balance and support
- Calf raisers
One of the biggest challenges we all face as we age is that our sense of balance gradually diminishes over time, leading to a higher risk of falling and getting injured. In fact, the CDC estimates that 2.8 million older Americans are treated in emergency rooms annually for injuries caused by falls, many of which are likely due to declining balance.
However, there are exercises you can do that will help with your balance, with yoga being one of the most effective. Positioning yourself into a yoga pose, and holding it for several seconds, helps you maintain balance. Another effective exercise involves standing behind a sturdy chair, resting one hand on the back of it, and lifting one leg for a count of ten. It’s important to just rest your hand lightly on the back of the chair for safety and not grip it tightly. Then switch legs and repeat the exercise.
Stretching is one of the most important exercises you can do, and often the most likely to be overlooked. You should stretch for a few minutes before any exercise session, as well as periodically throughout the day. This will ease the tightness we often feel in our muscles and joints as we get older. It will also improve your range of motion, allowing you to move about more freely and more comfortably.
As you stretch, remember to also focus on the muscles in your back and core, as well as arms and legs. With each stretch, pull slowly toward the fully stretched position until you feel it, but not to the point that it’s painful. Then hold the position, without bouncing, for ten seconds before releasing slowly. Stretching for just a few minutes once or twice a day should yield noticeable differences over time.
Who Can I Talk to About Exercising?
Your first conversation should be with your physician so feel free to contact us for an appointment. At MetroHealth, our physicians strongly encourage exercise as a way to stay healthy and maintain a high quality of life as you age. However, it’s important to sit down with a doctor to make sure your specific health circumstances allow that kind of physical activity.