Exercises for the elderly

Keeping active as we age is important to stay fit and healthy, with the NHS saying older adults should do something physical every day. The support of family and friends to encourage seniors to exercise is therefore vital.

Before making suggestions about exercises for the elderly, it’s a good idea to understand what’s appropriate. Light, moderate and intense activities all have their place, with many seniors able to incorporate a combination of these types of exercise into their lives.

Safety is also a key consideration, as overdoing it can cause more harm than good. An elderly individual’s physical fitness throughout their lives, experience levels and any health conditions should all be factored in. As always, starting slowly is a good idea.

  1. Strength exercises

Exercises that stimulate the growth of muscle and bone are an important element of any fitness routine as a person ages. Not only do they help to prevent frailty and conditions such as osteoporosis, but a sense of physical strength boosts mental and emotional health.

While weightlifting and push-ups may come to mind, effective strength exercises for the elderly can include working with resistance bands or digging in the garden.

  1. Exercises to improve balance

Falls represent a significant risk for the elderly and while the chance of them occurring increases with age, there are things that can be done to prevent them. Among these measures are balance exercises, which can aid posture and coordination to help seniors stay on their feet.

Simple balance exercises include the tightrope walk, where 20 to 30 steps are taken along a thin straight line; and a flamingo stand held for ten to 15 seconds on each side.

  1. Flexibility training

Another discipline that can reduce the chances of a fall is flexibility, with the range of movement joints can achieve being particularly important for the elderly. Improved flexibility is also associated with less discomfort and pain, greatly enhancing the quality of life in seniors.

Simple stretches like extending both arms out sideways with the palms facing forward or lying on their back and positioning a leg perpendicular to the body can be beneficial. Hold each stretch for 30 seconds at a time.

  1. Sitting exercises

Not all elderly people will be able to stand up to exercise, but there are a number of activities that can be completed in a chair. These can be a good place to start for people who haven’t exercised for a while and may lead onto other actions, or they may not.

Hip marching while sitting upright and gripping the sides of the chair can lead to better strength and flexibility. Start off with five raises of each leg and over time the number should increase.

  1. Household activities

For elderly people who are resistant to the idea of exercise, there are plenty of ways to disguise it. For example, many household activities like gardening and vacuuming are good ways to keep moving and promote fitness.

If your older relative is living in a care home and has all of the household chores taken care of, there are still ways they can get involved. Gardening is one of those tasks that can be joyful, especially when the flowers bloom or fruit can be picked.

  1. Low-impact exercises

With age comes wear and tear, making it important to be gentle on the joints. Many elderly people may find they can’t do the vigorous activities of their joy, but can enjoy low-impact exercises instead.

While yoga, pilates and tai chi are the obvious choices, cycling and swimming are also classed as low-impact. As always, lean into an option that would appeal to your loved one.

  1. Sports

It’s vital not to put limitations on the exercises older people can enjoy, as many of them may still be possible for them. When it comes to sports, memories of playing as a team or a sense of competitiveness can be a strong motivator to get seniors moving.

The popularity of walking football has grown hugely in recent years. While it has many advantages, such as increasing core stability and strengthening bones, it’s less risky than regular football in terms of injuries.

  1. Vigorous activities

Elderly people who are still able to enjoy vigorous activity will see its benefits. This can especially be the case for those who’ve exercised in this way their entire life. They may not go as fast as once before, but they still get going.

Running, playing tennis and cycling quickly are all considered vigorous and will raise the heart rate. The advice of a doctor is always a good idea if a senior is looking to restart vigorous exercise.

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