Exercise Ideas for Older Adults
Finding ways to get exercise as you get older is a smart and easy way to stay fit and improve your health. Exercise is just as important in your older years as when you were younger.
Research shows that an exercise routine offers a wealth of health benefits. One study found that adults ages 75 and older who exercised lived longer than older adults who didn’t exercise. Another study discovered that older women who squeezed in resistance, or strength, training workouts each week improved their mental function.
It’s also well known that regular exercise can help to boost heart health, maintain a healthy body weight, keep joints flexible and healthy, and improve balance to reduce falls.
Exercise does not take as much time as you may think. For general health benefits, older adults need about 2½ hours of aerobic (walking, running, and other activities that get the heart pumping faster) activity per week. These activities should be combined with activities that strengthen muscles at least 2 days per week.
Joining a gym and making use of the machines, trainers, and classes is one way to exercise. But you can also have fun there, meet new people, and do a variety of different activities that keep you healthy and strong.
Easy ways to exercise
Exercise actually comes in many forms, including activities that feel more like fun than hard work:
- Dance. Sign up for a dance class with your spouse or a friend or carve out some dance time at home.
- Go bowling. Join a bowling league or make a weekly date with some of your friends. If you have grandchildren, bring them along.
- Rediscover a favorite sport. Whether you love the elegance of golf or the challenge of tennis, make time for these leisure activities. If possible, vary your activities over the course of each week to work different muscle groups.
- Enjoy the great outdoors. When the weather cooperates, ride your bike, visit a local park for a hike, or simply go for a walk. These are all great exercises that get you outside and into the fresh air.
- Get in the swim. Swimming is an excellent exercise choice, particularly if you have joint pain. Join a local fitness center with a pool. Work in regular swims to meet your cardiac needs without straining your joints.
Balance and strengthen count, too
To help prevent falls, you also want to practice exercises that improve your balance. Yogawill help you manage stress, feel more relaxed, and improve muscle tone.
Taking some time to stretch every day can also help keep your joints flexible and keep you moving well. It’s also important to lift some light weights.
Work out while you work
Add a little “elbow grease” when doing chores and these regular activities will count as a workout:
- Cleaning the house
- Raking leaves in the yard
- Mowing the lawn
- Sweeping and dusting
Remember that getting older doesn’t mean slowing down. You’ve got to keep moving to stay young at heart…as well as in mind, body, and spirit.
Can Optimism Make a Difference in Your Life?
A growing number of scientific studies suggest optimistic people tend to live longer and have better physical and mental health than pessimistic people.
The science behind the smiles
The idea of optimism leading to better health. Researchers found optimism had a remarkable impact on physical health. The study examined overall longevity, survival from a disease, heart health, immunity, cancer outcomes, pregnancy outcomes, pain tolerance, and other health topics. It seemed that those who had a more optimistic outlook did better and had better results than those who were pessimistic.The message is that having a positive attitude can boost your physical health, no matter what might be ailing you.
How to be more optimistic
Changing from a pessimistic mindset to an optimistic one isn’t easy. Start with these tips:
- Think positive thoughts about yourself and others.
- Stop comparing yourself to others in a competitive way. Each person has unique and special talents that are to be valued.
- Try to find the good in every situation, even at difficult moments.
- When facing a challenge, focus on achieving a positive outcome, rather than expecting defeat.
- Strive to improve your physical health through exercise, a healthy diet, and good sleeping habits and hygiene. The better you feel, the brighter your outlook will be.
- Challenge your mind every day by learning something new, including learning about yourself and your family history.
Older Adults and the Importance of Social Interaction
As you get older and retire or move to a new community, you may not have quite as many opportunities to socialize as you did when you were younger.
If you’re not heading to an office or getting out and about each day, you may be missing out on important social interaction that you need to stay sharp and healthy. Social interaction offers older adults many benefits. Staying socially active and maintaining interpersonal relationships can help you maintain good physical and emotional health and mental function.
People who continue to maintain close friendships and find other ways to interact socially live longer than those who become isolated. Relationships and social interactions even help protect against illness by boosting your immune system.
The benefits of being social
Specific health benefits of social interaction in older adults include:
- Potentially reduced risk for cardiac problems and some cancers etc.
- Potentially reduced risk for various disease
- Lower blood pressure
- Reduced risk for mental health issues such as depression
Conversely, social isolation carries real risks. Some of these risks are:
- Feeling lonely and depressed
- Being less physically active
- Having a greater risk of death
- Having high blood pressure
Social interaction helps keep your brain from getting rusty, but it’s most effective when coupled with an overall healthy lifestyle, including a nutritious diet and physical activity.
Keeping your connections strong
Start by staying in touch with friends and family, and try to visit with them regularly. Here are other ways you can maintain a high level of social interaction:
- Volunteer in your community.
- Visit a senior center and participate in offered activities with other seniors—this is a great way to make new friends.
- Join a group focused on activities you enjoy, such as playing cards or a book club.
- Try taking a class—learn a new language or a new style of cooking or experiment with a new hobby.
- Join a gym or fitness center to stay physically fit and engage with others.
Find ways to stay young at heart, stimulated, busy—and out of the house. Schedule regular visits with grandkids or volunteer at a school or children’s organization to enjoy time with little ones and absorb some of their youthful energy.
Although staying in touch in person is important, phone calls, snail mail, and e-mail can keep you connected, too—if you’re not yet comfortable with computers, ask a young relative to help you.
Staying socially active and maintaining your relationships are an important part of healthy aging. Reach out to your loved ones—neighbors, friends, family members—and stay as vibrant, active, and social as you’ve always been.
How to Make Heart-Healthy Food Choices
Maintaining a healthy diet is one of the best weapons for fighting diseases and other heart conditions.
These steps for a Healthy Diet:
- Eat at least 2 cups of fruit and 2½ to 3 cups of vegetables every day. Produce is full of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other essential nutrients. And produce is practically free of fat and cholesterol.
- Cut back on high-fat foods containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils and saturated fat. Use liquid vegetable oils. Limit cheese, butter, ice cream processed and fatty meats, cakes, cookies, pastries and doughnuts.
- Eat more seafood, and eat fish at least two times a week. Eating fish can be good for you. All of these contain omega-3 fatty acids.
- Read and compare food labels. To make the best use of food labels, first look at how many servings the package contains. Then look at the calories and fat per serving. Multiply the calories and fat by the number of servings you’re going to eat.
- Cut back on foods that are high in cholesterol. Some of these foods are eggs, red meat, and liver.
- Limit sugary beverages like soda and juice with added sugar.
- Prepare foods with little or no added salt.
After you purchase nutritious foods, make certain you prepare them in a healthy manner. Grill fish and chicken instead of frying it.