Staying active as we age has many benefits, including an improved quality of life, improved cognitive function, and the ability to keep doing the things we love. While older adults may be more susceptible to infection during physical activity, this does not mean that mature adults should avoid it all together. Finding the right types of activities that help improve a variety of systems in the body should be the focus of seniors.
Low-impact activities such as walking, the elliptical, and swimming improve the cardiovascular system and improve overall ability to be active. Strength exercises that include body weight and external loads, such as dumbbells or machines, help keep the body strong and erect as well as improve mobility (thus reducing the need for assistance when walking and moving). Avoiding high-impact activities such as jogging or aerobic exercise removes many of the irritating factors for the knees, hips, and lower back.
Starting a fitness program is one of the best things you can do for your health. A loaded walk is a great place to start. Carrying more than your current body weight makes the muscles work harder than they normally do, and as you get stronger, the amount of time and/or amount of weight can be increased. Two common forms are the farmer’s carry and the discreet carry.
- Farmers’ loads involve lifting a weight (usually a bell or dumbbell) and holding it for a specified distance or amount of time while walking with control.
- Rowing involves carrying a heavy backpack or weight jacket and walking for a time or distance.
Both can be done in and out of the gym and require minimal equipment, but the benefits are enormous and help improve strength and cardiovascular endurance. The stronger a person’s body is, the easier daily activities become.
Swimming and water activities are common friendly and require minimal equipment. Our bodies become floating in the water, which takes the stress away from gravity. Exercising in water forces more muscles to work against resistance to create movement. Whether you’re swimming in swim courses or taking part in a water fitness class, water-based activities will help improve strength and usually reduce exercise-induced pain.
In addition to low-impact activities, weight training with machines, free weights, and hanging trainers will help with posture, range of motion, flexibility, and strength. Movements that include hinges, rows, presses, lunges, and core training challenge the muscles of the hips, shoulders, and core to keep them strong.
When looking at quality of life and health in general, exercise helps manage many chronic diseases such as diabetes, osteoporosis, osteoporosis, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. Relative strength (pound to pound strength) and aerobic capacity should be the focus for mature adults. Less high-impact options like pregnancy, jogging, swimming, and core strength exercises that advance in intensity and duration over time help achieve those benefits, and keep older adults strong, healthy, happy, and independent.