Should older adults exercise despite their advanced age?
Yes, they should. In fact, experts say that 30 minutes of exercise each day for an older adult is the equivalent of taking medicine . That should not come as a surprise to you.
In this guide, we will go over the reasons why there is a growing concern (particularly the government authorities) for the older generation and what role exercise plays in the overall.
I will also cover some of the most prevalent symptoms that you might experience as you grow older.
After that, I will share the reasons why seniors should go out and exercise, and also the myths and excuses that are often used to avoid exercise altogether.
I will also go over the benefits of exercise for older adults, some of the recommended exercises by the World Health Organization and other health authorities, and finally, a sample exercise plan that you can follow right away.
Current Population Trends Indicate a Rising Demand
Current population growth statistics indicate that the annual population of senior citizens is on a rising trend . There were 52 million adults last year, and it will more likely double by 2060.
By that time, there will be an estimated total of 95 million seniors on the planet. This will, of course, strain the economies of different nations and thus increasing the concern over these global citizens.
Staying active even in their advanced years is one of the keys to ensure their health, according to authorities. It will help reduce the common symptoms experienced by the elderly, which you will find in the next section.
Symptoms of Physical Decline as We Get Older
The following are the key signs and symptoms of physical decline that you have to watch out for . You may already be experiencing some of the following:
- High blood pressure
- Increased risk for cardiovascular disease
- Mood disorders
- Increased susceptibility to depression
- Increased levels of body fat
- Reduced bone strength
- Reduced cardiovascular and respiratory function
- Reduced respiratory function
- Reduced mobility
- Reduced joint flexibility
- Reduced balance and coordination
- Reduced strength and physical endurance
- Reduced muscle mass
Now that you know the symptoms let’s go over the reasons why older adults like you should still exercise in the next section.
Why Is It Important for Senior Citizens to Exercise?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that physical activity and exercise are beneficial to all adults, especially those older adults .
However, they also stress that exercise doesn’t need to be vigorous or even strenuous. Be mindful of the fact that our physical ability gradually diminishes as we age.
Studies confirm that the start of the rapid decline in fitness levels start when we hit the age of 45 .
Note that the cardiorespiratory fitness levels of men decline faster than the women’s. But the good news is that this decline isn’t linear. In other words, it is a reversible condition.
In fact, the same research also tells us that we can slow down this decline with a proper diet combined with an exercise plan. In fact, we may even get more fit by doing so.
Believe it or not, we also recommend that the elderly should do a certain amount of safe weight training.
Why Strength Training is Perfect for the Elderly
There is a growing body of research that focuses on strength training for seniors. Studies have found that weight training can help the elderly beat sarcopenia and other age-related muscular loss.
Personally, I was truly surprised myself the first time I learned that. Now, don’t get me wrong—you don’t need to do powerlifting. The keyword here is safe strength training.
Studies have shown that weight training 2 or 3 days a week can benefit older adults . The same studies also suggest that moderate weight training helps improve bone density and preserves muscular mass in older adults.
Now, I know—you might be wondering what if I have osteoarthritis?
Studies with actual clinical trials show that strength training can significantly improve muscular and overall function in older people. That includes people with osteoarthritis .
Let’s set the record straight. Don’t expect to lift an 800-pound barbell. That’s not realistic for older adults.
However, our recommended exercises and also the fitness plans that you will see on our site will guide you through safe and effective exercises that do incorporate the right amount of weights.
Older adults with osteoarthritis and/or muscular weakness can get fit and healthy using our recommended fitness plans. The exercise regimens will be custom-tailored to their current capacities.
I also recommend that you go through a progressive overload in your workouts. You will start with exercises that have light to moderate difficulty.
As you progress and become stronger, we will incorporate more challenging exercises. A little bit of safe weight training will eventually be included in our recommended exercise programs.
Common Myths and Excuses
The following are the common myths and barriers which prevent older people from exercising. They are actually misconceptions and excuses that many have used.
- Older people tend to believe that exercising is no longer appropriate for them because they are frail and weak
- Another misconception that makes the elderly abandon any form of physical activity is that they need to perform sustained and vigorous exercise levels to get actual benefits.
- Exercise can be hazardous for old people
- They risk both minor and major forms of injury.
- They also believe that as the human body ages the less exercise it needs
- The cost of exercise equipment may discourage older adults from exercising.
After learning all about the myths about exercising for older adults, let’s go over to the benefits of exercising in the senior years. We have touched on some of these benefits earlier.
How Exercise Benefits The Elderly
Increased Muscular Mass
Researchers say that the human body loses 3 kg of weight every 10 years. This loss of muscle mass began when you hit your middle age.
The most affected muscles are the ones you use for fast contractions. That basically includes all the muscles in your limbs.
However, there is a body of research that points to a sedentary lifestyle as a contributory factor in this phenomenon. That means regular exercise, even when you’re in your advanced years, can help reverse this process.
Improved Heart and Lung Health
Studies suggest that exercises of moderate-intensity can better benefit the elderly when it comes to heart and lung health.
There is a caveat, though. Older adults must do these exercises regularly.
It will definitely take longer to improve heart and lung health. However, the benefits will be the same across all age groups.
Better Bone Health
Bone density declines when you reach the age of 40. And it accelerates even further when you hit 50 years old and above.
This means older people become more prone to fractures. Studies show that weighted exercises, even for older adults, can help to keep one’s bones healthy and strong.
Reduced Body Fat Levels
Increased body fat levels are associated with diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Everyone should know that by now.
Regular exercise speeds up the body’s metabolism. This translates to the burn-up of stored calories ergo, reducing body fat.
Such a change can help any elderly person maintain a healthy weight. It also improves their build too.
Better Joint Health
Another thing to go when you grow old is your joint health. Your back tends to ache a lot more frequently along with your hands, wrists, knees, shoulders, and other joints.
Some may think that exercise that involves these joints is counter-intuitive. Contrary to that opinion, exercise actually helps to improve achy joints.
It helps to keep ligaments and bones supple. Even people suffering from arthritis will benefit from the strength and aerobic exercises.
If you’re ready to get the benefits of exercising, especially when you’re a senior, then check out how our fitness programs can help.
How Recommended Exercises in Our Program Can Help
- The exercise regimen is localized and specifically detailed by doctors and fitness experts.
- You will only exercise 5 days a week.
- Workout levels will only be anywhere from easy to moderate levels.
- Our exercise programs include both strength and conditioning and aerobic workouts as well.
In the next section, we will go over our recommended exercises for seniors.
Recommended Exercises for Seniors
There are three classes of exercises we recommend for seniors:
- Light Activity
- Moderate Aerobic Activity
- Vigorous Intensity Exercises
Light activity is any form of activity other than just lying down in bed or sitting down on the couch. Moderate activity and exercise is any exercise that will raise your heart rate.
That means if you can’t sing but can still talk while exercising, you are doing a moderate-intensity exercise. A vigorous or high-intensity exercise is one where you can only speak a few words and then you have to catch your breath.
Light Activity/Light Exercises:
- Making your bed
- Cleaning and dusting the house
- Walking at a slow pace
- Mopping the floor
- Moving around the home
- Walking to the kitchen and making a cup of coffee or tea
Moderate Aerobic Activity
- Mowing the lawn (not a motorized one)
- A game of tennis
- Riding a bike
- Calisthenics (light)
- Light swimming or water aerobics
- Brisk walking
- Yoga (for beginners)
- Working with resistance bands
Vigorous or High-Intensity Workouts for Seniors
- Martial arts
- Yoga (advanced)
- Dancing (hip hop or other forms of energetic dancing)
- Uphill hiking
- Calisthenics (heavy including some beginning plyometrics)
- Biking uphill
- Swimming really fast
- Zumba or aerobics
Sample Exercise Plan for Seniors
The following is just a sample exercise plan for seniors. Note that these exercises are intended for beginners or for older adults who may not have had any exercise at all for some time.
We have also included a sample exercise set that you can do. This sample set can be performed for 30 minutes.
Sample Exercise Plan
- Monday – Walk for 15 minutes (morning)
- Tuesday – Walk for 15 minutes (afternoon)
- Wednesday – 30 minutes of Sample Exercise Set (see description below)
- Thursday – Rest day
- Friday – Walk 30 minutes (morning)
- Saturday – 30 minutes of Sample Exercise Set (see description below)
- Sunday – Rest day
Sample Exercise Set
Heel to Toe Walking (10 minutes)
This simple yet effective exercise is light and easy. It will help you develop strength and balance, as well. To begin, stand with both feet apart. Take a step with your left foot placing its heel right in front of the toes of your right foot.
Next, step with your right foot placing your right heel in front of the toes of your left foot. Repeat stepping your left and right foot placing one foot right in front of the other.
Do this for 5 minutes and then rest for 2 minutes. Repeat the same steps for another 5 minutes and then move on to the next exercise.
Side Leg Raises (10 minutes)
You will need a chair for this exercise to help you balance. This exercise will help to strengthen your legs and also improve your balance.
Stand behind a chair and hold on to its back for added balance. Raise your right leg slowly to your side as high as you can. Now slowly lower your right leg back to the floor.
Do the same thing with your right leg. Alternate lifting your right and left legs, do it for 5 minutes. Rest for 2 minutes and then repeat all the steps for another 5 minutes. Proceed to the next exercise.
Wall Pushups (10 minutes)
This is a resistance exercise and will require some effort. This exercise is for strength and conditioning.
Begin by standing at arm’s length from an empty wall (i.e., it doesn’t have pictures or any other wall hangings). Keep your feet shoulder width apart.
Place your palms against the wall at shoulder level. Your palms should also be shoulder width apart. You should look like you’re pushing against the wall.
Lower your body closer to the wall as if you were leaning toward it. Don’t let your face touch the wall. Your weight should be on your arms and on the toes of your feet.
Push against the wall until you get back to your starting position. Do not rush when making your pushups. You get the maximum effect from this workout by doing each repetition slowly.
Do wall pushups for 5 minutes and then rest for 2 minutes. Do another set of wall pushups for another 5 minutes, and then you’re done.
Some Last Reminders
Here are a few reminders before trying any of the workouts above.
- Always check with your doctor first before starting any exercise regimen.
- Take it easy when you start.
- Find people to exercise with—have your kids or grandkids to supervise you.
- Choose fun exercise routines—we provide instructions on exercises for seniors.
- Have someone monitor your pulse and breathing.
If you found the exercise plan presented here to be quite fun and useful, then you should really give it a try and let us know your experience and results in the comment section below.
1 Taylor, Denise (2014). Physical activity is medicine for older adults. Postgraduate Medical Journal. Retrieved from https://pmj.bmj.com/content/90/1059/26
2 Mather, Scommegna, and Kilduff (July 15, 2019). Fact Sheet: Aging in the United States. Retrieved from https://www.prb.org/aging-unitedstates-fact-sheet/
3 Author unknown (July 2014). Physical activity for seniors. Retrieved from https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/HealthyLiving/physical-activity-for-seniors
4 Author unknown (November 17, 1999) Physical Activity and Health: A Report of the Surgeon General. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/sgr/olderad.htm
5 Jackson et. al. Fitness Levels Decline With Age, Especially After 45, JAMA and Archives Journals. (October 30, 2009). Retrieved from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/10/091026161846.htm
6 Seguin R1, Nelson ME. (October 2003). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14552938
7 Latham, Nancy, and Chiung-ju Liu (March 24, 2013). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3606891/