If you’re a baby boomer or younger, you’ve probably grown up knowing the health benefits of regular exercise — at least since you became an adult. But things were different in your parents’ generation. No one exercised on any regular basis – unless you counted their once a week bowling league.
But times have changed. Drastically. Not only have boomers jumped on the exercise bandwagon, but so have their parents. It used to be that once you graduated high school, you were – happily – also done with exercise! Even the Jack LaLanne Show – an exercise staple on TV for 34 years – was more of a filler between I Love Lucy reruns and Queen for a Day than a true fitness show. Although LaLanne was a self-professed health nut, his audience of mostly stay-at-home moms was generally less enthusiastic. The Biggest Loser, this was not.
But as studies began to show the health benefits associated with exercise, other celebrities got in on the act. Actress Jane Fonda produced a series of exercise books and videos – The Jane Fonda Workout — that appealed to women who wanted to “work out” at home. Then Richard Simmons, who had lost 123 pounds himself, built an empire and got the country moving – enthusiastically — to the music and video versions of Sweatin’ to the Oldies.
Today, spinning, cross-fit, beach body workouts and triathlon training are all popular with the younger generation, but there are plenty of activities for the rest of us that will provide great health benefits without killing us. And we now know that those benefits are good not only for our bodies, but also our minds. If that’s not a reason to stay active, well, I don’t know what is!
How much is enough? Experts recommend that seniors get 150 minutes of exercise per week. They used to suggest 30 minutes five days a week, but it’s now been shown that it’s okay to break exercise “sessions” into smaller increments. For instance, walking twice a day for 15 minutes is as good as walking for a half-hour all at once. And that’s great news for seniors who want to remain active, but age and physical restraints may cause them to tire easily.
So what to do, what to do? There are a lot of options, but exercise experts recommend doing what you think you’ll enjoy the most. The more you like what you’re doing, the more apt you are to stick with it. Remember that it takes 21 days to make something a habit, so choose an activity that will keep you interested long enough for it to become a regular part of your routine.
One way to increase the likelihood of sticking with your new routine is to grab a friend. If you’ve got a friend, relative, or spouse to keep you company and to encourage you, you’ll get a couple of benefits. First, you can support each other and urge each other on. Someone saying, “You can do it!” goes a long way toward keeping you motivated and confident. Secondly, because you rely on each other, you’re less likely to back out because it’s not just about you anymore — you know someone else is counting on you to support them.
There are several places for seniors to get their exercise. Your local senior center or health club likely offers classes for people of all levels. And if you don’t like group exercise, try using individual equipment at the gym or pop in a DVD at home.
Here are some fun exercises to keep seniors fit – while having fun.
Balance exercises – We really can’t overstate the importance of balance. Falls are one of the biggest health concerns for older adults, and balance problems are among the biggest causes of falls. Ask your doctor, physical therapist, or trainer for some exercises that you can do to strengthen your core – which will help improve balance.
Weight training – Weight training is good not only for muscle strength and toning, but for bone health as well. Take a class or grab some free weights and try some lifts at home. Start with a light weight. Even a couple of soup cans will do the trick as you’re starting out. Use them for arm curls – or carry them around as you exercise to increase resistance and metabolism.
Yoga – This is a great low-impact way to exercise. It improves balance, stretches your muscles, improves flexibility and relieves stress. All of that, in turn, can reduce aches and pains. What’s not to like about that?
Aerobic exercise – Zumba, Jazzercise and other aerobic exercises are perfect for increasing heart rate and burning fat. A great combination – and great for any body. If you don’t like dance – or classes — try biking, running, step exercises or even Tai Chi. And for those looking for low impact cardio, hit the pool for water aerobics or lap swimming.
And last, but absolutely, positively not least, there’s plain old simple walking! Many neighborhoods, senior living communities and malls all have organized walking clubs. Or set aside some time to walk with a friend – it’s a good way to catch up with each other while getting in some great exercise. So just grab a buddy – or your iPod – and hit the streets. Your mind and body will thank you.
At GreenTree At Westwood, we have senior programs that can help you remain healthy and active during your time at our senior living community. Contact us at 812.270.9262 today to learn about our rooms and amenities.