What Are The Best Exercises For Older Adults?

Senior fitness couple
If you follow me on social media, you know I love to run, it's the exercise that does the most for me both physically and mentally! But, no matter what your age, the best exercise for you is the one you do and enjoy! If you don't like what you're doing for exercise, chances are you won't be doing it for long!

But, with all the different types of exercises out there, what is right for you? And what will do you the most good? As we get older, our muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones all change, and not necessary for the better! The high-impact jumping or even running, may not be right for you. Also, think about your balance if you want to think about a two-wheeled bike.

Let's look at some types of exercises that are best for older adults. I shouldn't have to say this, but before starting any new workout program, check with your doctor to make sure you don't have any conditions that will preclude you for doing them.

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1. Swimming

Swimming has been called the world's perfect exercise. It doesn't make any difference if you're doing the backstroke, taking a water aerobics class, or playing Keep Away with the grandkids, just getting in the pool is a fantastic way to increase your cardiovascular fitness while also toning your muscles!

It does all this while putting minimal stress on your bones and joints. This is a major factor with people who have arthritis or osteoporosis. And, as an added plus, a 2012 study in the Journal of Aging Research suggests that swimming can help older adult keep their minds as sharp as their bodies!

Even if you're not a swimmer, check out the local gym that offers water aerobics that stays at the shallow end. I know at my local “LA Fitness” the pool is, at the deepest 4.5 feet which is perfect for me. But, beware, the shallower the water, the more weight your bones and joints will have to support.

2. Yoga

While swimming may be the world's perfect exercise, if you don't want to get wet, yoga is right up there! Yoga can help build muscle strength, aerobic fitness, core stability, and flexibility! These all important things for older adults. Yoga is also low-impact and easy on your body's joints. It's also a “body weight” (see #4 below) exercise which is vital to strengthening your bones as well as your muscles.

If you are new to yoga, look for an introductory class that will teach you the basics. Maybe a class that uses a chair to help with poses. When I do yoga, I normally use a chair for forward bends and any pose that I have to go from standing to the floor.

3. Pilates

Like yoga, Pilates is a low-impact, strength program, but its focus on core stability makes it especially great for older adults. Some studies show that Pilates participation improves balance.

Most gyms offer Pilates classes designed for first-timers, which is important for those interested in classes that rely on the “reformer,” a machine that uses springs, bars, and straps for resistance. (I've used on in physical therapy.)

4. Bodyweight Training

Bodyweight training is easy to do, and you can do it anywhere! You'll always have the minimum equipment with you, it's just your body! Studies show that one out of three older adult experiences muscle loss. When it comes to fighting age-related abdominal fat; a marker for overall health; Harvard research shows that strength training is more time-efficient than cardiovascular exercise.

Luckily, you don't have to bench press a huge weight to keep your muscles healthy and prevent fat gain over the years. Simple bodyweight exercises such as chair squats, single-leg stands, wall pushups and stair climbing will do a great job at keeping you strong and ready to tackle everyday activities.

5. Resistance Band Workouts

Your gym should have an array of resistance bands ready for your use, or you may be like me, I have an array at home! These are inexpensive and beginner-friendly for both home and gym workouts. They can make some body-weight exercises easier.

Also, bands can help you challenge your body in ways you might not be able to with equipment-free training. For instance, when it comes to strengthing your back and improving your posture, rows and other pulling motions are critical, but hard to do if you don't have any exercise equipment on hand. Plus the bands may offer less resistance.

6. Walking

Finding the time for a structured workout can be hard, but getting those feet moving to go someplace, well, it's pretty hard not too. The recommended number of steps to get each day is 10,000.

For some older adults or people with a chronic condition, 10,000 steps may not be the right number. The fact remains: Walking is a great, free workout that can have a huge impact on your health!

7. Cycling

Maybe you haven't ridden a bike since you were a kid, I know for me, I stopped ridding at about age 10 and didn't start again until I was well in my 40s, but you don't forget how to! Cycling is another form of low-impact exercise and it is ideal for those who want to increase their leg strength.

If you have cycling trails near your home, consider planning regular bike rides with friends or family. Indoor cycling is another great option for people who don't have safe places to ride or when the weather is bad.

If you worry about balance, three-wheeled bikes are a great alternative for those who want some fresh air. ANd a benefit of riding indoors on a stationary bike, no helmet needed and falls are not likely!

8. Fitness Classes

Check with local community centers, senior centers, or fitness clubs for classes. These can range from the dance of Zumba to the high-intensity boot class or cross-fit class. If you're not comfortable signing up for a class on your own, ask a friend to join you!

9. Personal Training

Maybe you want some one-on-one work or you have some special needs when it comes to fitness. This is where a personal trainer can be useful. Some trainers will also work with small groups that can make it easier on the bank account!

When choosing a trainer, look for someone certified through a governing body like the American College of Sports Medicine or the National Academy of Sports Medicine. It will be a bonus if they have certification or history in training older adults!

My 2-cents Worth…

This was a pretty glossy overview of training as an older adult with a lot of options to look at. I didn't even cover things like golf or bowling. If you would like help from a certified personal trainer, let me know! I have been certified with National Academy of Sports Medicine with the Senior Fitness specialty added on! Leave me a comment or send me an email!

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