Senior Fitness Exercises

As many people begin to feel the effects of aging, they often consider what measures they might take to improve the overall quality of their health. Mental and physical well being can be improved over time with just small steps and subtle changes. There is no reason for senior citizens to be excluded from exercise programs. Exercising is much more beneficial to seniors than the avoidance of physical activity. Muscles atrophy when they are not used regularly. Both the heart and the brain benefit greatly from a regular program of senior fitness exercises. Not only is the risk of dementia decreased, but the heart and the entire circulatory system's functionality is enhanced. If you have never exercised regularly, it is definitely time to start. No matter what your age, you can maximize your strength and flexibility. Age related diseases, such as arthritis, can be minimized without resorting to a host of pain medications. The many benefits of exercise include: conditioning the heart; toning the legs, buttocks, core and arms; reduce stress; increase metabolism; slowing the aging process. It is important to start any exercise program slowly. You can build on the intensity over a period of time, if it does not produce pain or other health conditions. Walking in place or on a treadmill in the home can be done anytime and with little preparation. You would only need comfortable clothing and shoes. It is important to allow your exercise routine to become part of your daily life. You will soon see results and that will further motivate you to continue to find ways to add motion to your day. Exercise is a great mood enhancer as endorphins are released and a feeling of well being is created. There are safety steps that should be taken prior to starting any fitness routine. You will want to talk to your physician who is familiar with your unique health history and conditions. Follow your physicians advice and recommendations. It is important to schedule periodic checkups to monitor your progress. If you experience any unusual symptoms, see your doctor immediately. If the symptoms are severe, get immediate medical assistance. Chest pains, irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath, and unusual weight loss or gain are causes for alarm. When exercising, do not exert your body to the point of pain. "No pain â€" no gain" is not a valid assumption for seniors that exercise. Any exercise is better than none at all, but too much can also be detrimental to aging body parts. Often finances are tight on a retiree's fixed budget, which makes a gym membership difficult or impossible. But, you can benefit from exercises done in and near your own home at very little expense.

Warm-up Exercises

Start by walking in place. This will serve to warm up the muscles. Here are some exercises that are easy on the body: Step to right side with right leg. Close with left leg. Step to left side with left leg. Close with right leg. Repeat this simple exercise 10 times. March in place by raising each knee alternately. Work up to 5 minutes in duration. Swing arms back and forth as you march in place. Kick step by kicking your leg forward gently. Kick one leg and then the other. Repeat 10 times. Standing is preferential to sitting. Try standing when you are talking on the phone. Rise from your chair during commercial breaks and do one of the above exercises until the break is over.

Stretching Exercises

Stretching should be done after the warm-up and prior to any exercise. This is essential to increase the body's flexibility and to reduce chances for injury by exertion on taut muscles and tendons. Exercises that gently stretch the muscles really enhance flexibility and allow for a more active life during the senior years. Consult with your physician to determine the safest stretching exercises for you.

Cardio Exercises

According to the American Heart Association you should strive for a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise five day a week. You will burn 150 calories with a 30 minute walk. It doesn't matter where you walk or how you walk, just get moving. Walk in place, in the mall, lap the grocery store a couple of times before you shop, or go around the block or your yard. Brisk walking for just 10 minutes provides benefits immediately. Calories and fat are burned as healthy glucose levels are maintained. Cardio exercises strengthen the heart muscles and increase circulation. Find ways to increase your mobility. Vary your routine by incorporating some of these simple exercises into your day: walking, water aerobics, bike riding, gardening, walking the dog, ballroom dancing, square dancing, take a brisk 10 minute walk, take the stairs instead of the elevator, and use a squeeze ball to exercise hands and fingers. Hatha yoga is a gentle exercise using deep breathing combined with body postures. Yoga is also an excellent stress reducer. Take a class at a community center or borrow an instructional tape from your local library. Workouts do not need to be stressful on your body, but they do need to be done consistently. Rotating the types of exercises is helpful because it helps to target different muscle groups and also eliminates the boredom that comes from repetition. Consider the exertion rate as light for the warm-up and the cool-down periods of the exercise program. The slightly harder exertion rate should occur during the aerobic or more active portion of the program. If you can walk, you can exercise gently and efficiently. Don't set yourself up for failure by saying you can't do it. Lifestyle changes are challenging, but possible if you will focus on the benefits. You will feel and look better, have more energy, and reduce the chances for further health problems. You might even be able to have your medication reduced over time, with your physician's approval.

Strength Exercises

Strength exercises can rebuild muscles that have atrophied due to lack of use. Metabolism will increase upon performing these types of exercises. Remember to breathe and work out in a slow, steady rhythm. Do not jerk or pull your arms or legs. Some muscle soreness will be evident at first, but it should only last a few days. Neither pain nor exhaustion is normal. "Easy does it" is the rule. Strength exercises should be varied in order to flex different muscle groups. Twice a week should be the goal.
  • Arm Sitting comfortably in a chair, drop arms down to the sides with palms facing thighs. Gently raise the arms to shoulder level and hold for a count of one second, then begin to gently lower the arms to the original position. Repeat 8 to 12 times. Rest for a minute or two and repeat. Eventually, you may work up to using small 1-2 pound hand weights.
  • Upper Arm Sitting comfortably in a chair, with your feet flat on floor, hold a 1-2 pound hand weight in each hand. Arms should be hanging down the side of the body with palms facing inward toward thighs. Slowing raise one arm at the elbow towards the chest. Hold for 1 second and slowly lower the arm. Repeat with the other arm. Aim for 8 to 12 repetitions on each side. Rest for a minute or two and repeat.

Lower Body Exercises

Falls cause many of the most common injuries to senior citizens. Lower body exercises are important to develop strength in the leg muscles, which helps to minimize falls.
  • Knee Flex Supporting yourself by holding onto the back of a chair for balance, stand straight with both feet flat on the floor. Slowly lift one knee back and up off the floor keeping the upper leg immobile. Slowly lower the foot back to the original position. Alternate with the opposite leg. Continue until 8 to 12 repetitions have been completed. Rest and then repeat with one more set of 8 to 12 repetitions.
  • Side Leg Lifts Stand with both feet flat on the floor, toes pointing forward. Hold onto the back of a chair for balance. Lift one leg off the floor and to the side slightly, not more than 6 to 10 inches. Lower the leg slowly. Repeat with the opposite leg. Do a set of 8 to 10 repetitions. Rest and do a second set.
  • Simple Anytime Balance Exercise While you are waiting in line or anytime, stand on one foot for a second or two. Don't allow yourself to lose your balance. Alternate with the other foot. Repeat.

Endurance Exercises

Endurance exercises include walking, biking, housecleaning, gardening, golfing, and swimming. Start gradually and build on the amount of time you can comfortably perform a task or exercise. Do not be afraid to undertake a program of senior fitness exercises. Don't assume that you must over exert and sweat your body into submission to realize the benefits from a regular exercise program. That is not the case. The consistency of your routine is what is most important. Even frail, elderly patients can benefit from some type of regular exercise on most days. Many people with debilitating diseases can also experience relief from a well-planned program. Check with your health-care provider before undertaking an exercise program. Ask for guidance and regular monitoring. You will find yourself looking and feeling better almost immediately.

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