At Rep 1 Fitness we’ve seen our older adult clients achieve amazing health and fitness results. Perhaps the word ‘amazing’ is downplaying their achievements and we should say ‘life changing’!
Our senior clients can be seen working on single leg balance drills, learning to lift weights or even venturing into weekend cycling races. No matter what your level of fitness is, it’s without a doubt that exercise can positively impact one’s health. Being physically active can improve your quality of life, mental and physical well-being and can even lead to living longer. Participating in a safe fitness program contributes to well-being at every age but is essential for older adults. The best exercise for seniors combines 4 pillars of fitness; strength, cardiovascular, mobility and balance.
Regular exercise can help reduce the risk of heart attacks, strokes, heart disease and can even slow cognitive decline. It can help control blood pressure, cholesterol, increase circulation and maintain a healthy body weight. Also some studies reveal that regular exercise can help reduce the risk of some diseases like diabetes and Alzheimer’s up to a whopping 50%! A smart and safe exercise program can help strengthen your muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones helping fight against falls and osteoporosis.
Best of all, exercise can help you stay strong, agile and energetic so you can continue the activities that bring you the most the joy in life!
There is no ‘one best exercise’ but an exercise program that combines strength, cardiovascular and flexibility work is the most beneficial for seniors. Try and find an exercise routine that not only includes those but one that you enjoy the most! This way exercising will be fun and you’ll be more likely to stick to the program long term.
What if I’m a Total Beginner?
If you’re new to fitness or haven’t been active in a while fear not! It’s never too late to start and reap the benefits of exercise. First and foremost, before you begin any new exercise make sure you speak to your doctor. Ensure any existing health conditions or medications are taken into account. Ensure you start slowly and gradually build up. If you have no idea where to start consider working with an experienced personal trainer. They have the knowledge and abilities to work safely with all age groups.
If you’re new to fitness start with walking. Walking is one of the best exercises for seniors. You can start with 10-15 minutes several times a week. Work your way up to being able to walk comfortably for 30 minutes. This is a great cardiovascular foundation to have. From there you can build upon your foundation!
Starting a Fitness Program
The good thing is that greater health and fitness can be achieved by exercising just 30 minutes most days of the week. Let’s take a closer look at what your fitness program should like in detail below:
“Older adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week or do at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity…” recommends the World Health Organization.
Moderate intensity exercise includes walking, swimming and even mowing the lawn. Moderate exercise should feel somewhat hard. Physical clues will be breaking a light sweat after 10 minutes, breathing quickens but you can still hold a normal conversation.
Vigorous intensity exercise should feel very challenging. Your breathing would be rapid, you’d break a sweat after only a few minutes of exercise and you cannot carry a conversation comfortably.
If you’re new to vigorous exercise be careful not to overexert yourself. If you experience any pain, feel faint or dizzy be sure to stop and rest. Then gradually build up next time. Again, working with a certified personal trainer can be very helpful as they know how to prescribe exercise intensity for your personal level.
The Best Exercise for Seniors:
From there we suggest adding in a strength training regime. Resistance training (strength training) is another best form of exercise for seniors as it helps maintain and improve your muscular strength and endurance. This leads to better posture, stronger bones and even contributes to your quality of life!
As we age our bodies naturally lose muscle mass. Humans lose 3% – 5% of muscle mass every decade after the age of 30. This can even speed up around the age of 65 if a person remains inactive. It is crucial to stay active and strength train as you age to help slow this process down. Sarcopenia (muscle loss with age) can come with symptoms like loss of stamina, muscle atrophy (muscle shrinking) and weakness. With regular resistance training woman can expect to gain 0.5-1 lbs of muscle per month and men 1-2 lbs of muscle every month. These numbers can vary greatly depending on genetics, hormone levels, age, quality of sleep and diet. Nonetheless – we can ensure you will see and feel a difference even in the first month of regular strength training!
Daily tasks like climbing stairs and carrying groceries for example all require muscular strength. With stronger muscles you can expect to do these things with ease and confidence.
How Much and How Often?
We suggest strength training a minimum of two days per week. Strength training includes exercises using free weights, resistance bands, weighted balls, cables and even your own bodyweight. Again, make sure you start gradually with a weight you can safely lift for 10-15 reps. Movements that strengthen all the major muscle groups like squats, lunges, modified push ups and rows are the best exercises for seniors.
Below are just some of our amazing older adults at Rep 1 Fitness showing us some of the best exercises for seniors:
- The Wall Push Up – this is a great place to start building your upper body strength. If you haven’t done a push up in a while start with your hands on the wall to decrease the difficulty.
- The Squat – This lower body exercise is excellent for building strength in the quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes. If you’re smiling and laughing like our trainee in the video it means you’re doing it right!
- The Lunge – Similar to the squat, this exercise builds the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes as well as challenges balance!
Flexibility and Mobility
Our muscles and joints lose flexibility and range of motion gradually with age. Mobility is important for performing exercises correctly as well keeping simple daily tasks easy. Flexibility can be improved by static stretches, holding a stretch for up to 60 seconds. A joints range of motion can be improved with dynamic stretches and specific mobility drills.
Below is one of our favourite stretches for the hips and lower back and you can do it lying down – bonus!
Below is one of your favourite stretches for your hamstrings. Step 1, start by lying on your back, bend one leg in towards your chest and wrap a band or strap around the bottom of your foot. Step 2, slowly begin to straighten the leg until you feel a gentle stretch in the back of the leg. Hold for 30-60 seconds.
Better yet, assisted stretching therapy like the Fascial Stretch Therapy, a pain free, table-based technique can increase your flexibility. The Fascial Stretch Therapy offered at Rep 1 can help improve flexibility and mobility, reduce muscle soreness and leave you feeling relaxed.
The ability to balance better has to be one of the best outcomes of exercise for older adults. It is widely known that over 2 million older adults in North America fall each year resulting in injuries due to loss of balance. The great thing about balance exercises is that they can be done almost anywhere. Try standing and holding onto a railing, fence or sturdy chair for support, then slowly take one leg off the ground so that you’re balancing on one leg. Try and stay here for 10 seconds then take a break. Repeat 5 times on each leg. Once you feel comfortable try balancing on one leg without holding onto something.
If you’re a seasoned fitness enthusiast or a complete beginner we encourage you to continue or start your fitness course no matter your age! You’ll be sure to see and feel the positive benefits of exercise on your mind and body. And who knows where your fitness venture will take you!