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6 tips for exercising safely as an older adult

6 tips for exercising safely as an older adult

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.

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.

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Making safety a top priority when participating in any physical activity is crucial to prevent seniors from harming themselves. Always talk with your healthcare provider before starting any exercise or physical activity program.

Six ways seniors can stay safe while exercising:

  • Start slow and build up. It's important to start slow and build slowly to avoid injury and boredom. 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.

  • Be sure to warm up/stretch. Taking some time to stretch every day can also help keep your joints flexible and keep you moving well.

  • Stay hydrated. Drinking enough water is important for everyone, but especially for older adults who are at greater risk for dehydration. Older adults are more likely to become dehydrated because they naturally have less water in their bodies.

    They’re also likely to have health conditions or take medicines that increase their risk of dehydration – like blood pressure medications that flush water from the body.

  • Avoid extreme temperatures. Exercise indoors when it’s too hot or too cold outside, or when the air quality is poor. Try walking at a shopping mall or walking at a reasonable pace on a treadmill.

  • Dress comfortably. Always wear shoes that fit well and that are designed for exercise. If you need orthotic inserts to prevent your feet from hurting, get these before exercising.

  • Don’t overdo it! The first thing older adults should do is talk to their doctor about any exercise plan to ensure that it is safe and effective. The focus should be on low-impact exercises that help with balance, flexibility and strength.

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 arthritis joint pain. Join a local fitness center with a pool. Work in regular swims to meet your cardiovascular needs without straining your joints.

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.

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