Fitness and exercise for seniors – how to live longer and better

It’s an old adage, but use it or lose it still holds good today. The less you do, the less you want to do. Most of us retire with good intentions for improving our lives; going golfing, seeing our friends more and doing all the things we thought about when we were working.

The truth is that without someone to push us into action, we very often do less and less as we get older and tell ourselves “That’s just how it is in old age”. Well I’m here to tell you that this just isn’t true, and exercise is the key to better longevity, keeping strong and enjoying the whole of our lives. There is absolutely no reason, apart from disease and trauma, for us not to live a long and happy life. So here are some things that might give you a better quality of life. We really have to think carefully about fitness and exercise for us Seniors.

What happens when we stop moving?

When we sit more, watching TV or just slow down so much that we are moving at a snail’s pace, our bodies systems slow down too.

  • Blood circulation slows, so our cells don’t get the nutrition they need.
  • Muscles start to atrophy, get shorter, weaker, more painful and less able to support us.
  • Our bone density lessens, so we are more likely to break them in a fall
  • Our mental faculties are understimulated, so our memory, concentration and cognition suffers

So exercise is a must if we want to stay healthy and live life to the full.

What are the benefits of exercise

Anticipation of something is always worse than the actual thing, and once you get started you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it before. So here are some reasons to entice you.

  • Exercise stimulates the production of endorphins, the pain control and feelgood hormones
  • It also stimulates the production of serotonin and nonepinephrine, which helps to focus attention
  • Good if you have type 2 diabetes
  • ” ” ” ” High blood pressure
  • ” ” ” ” Cholesterol
  • ” ” ” ” Heart disease
  • Helps if you suffer from migraines – stimulates the vegas nerve to reduce intensity and frequency
  • Good for Strength, stamina and energy
  • ” ” Balance
  • ” ” Flexibility
  • ” ” Easing stress – decreases Cortisol and increases endorphins

Sharper Memory and thinking – The same endorphins that make you feel better also help you to concentrate and feel mentally sharp for tasks at hand.

Better Sleep – Even short bursts of exercise in the morning or afternoon can help regulate your sleep patterns.

So you see, the list is pretty long and the alternative not so good.

Mental health – how to protect it through exercise.

Depression. Studies have shown that exercise can help mild depression every bit as well as drugs can. TheHarvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that walking for an hour reduces the risk of major depression by 26%. It also prevents you from relapsing.

Exercise does this by making changes in your brain, including neural growth, reduced inflammation, increased production of endorphins (which are the feelgood hormones).

It also creates new activity patterns that promote feelings of calm and well-being.

Finally, exercise is a distraction from every day thinking, and helps you find some quiet time to escape the cycle of negative thoughts that feed depression.

Anxiety. Exercise is a natural anxiety buster.

  • Relieves tension and stress
  • Boosts physical and mental energy
  • Enhances wellbeing through the release of endorphins.

By concentrating on the movement of the exercise, rather than letting your mind wander, you will interrupt the flow of constant worries that are wearing a groove in your brain, and feel the joy of release.

Building a balanced exercise plan.

It is always a good idea to plan your exercise regime to include

  • Balance
  • Cardio
  • Strength and power training
  • Flexibility

Types of exercise that may help would be walking, swimming, yoga. Something that raises your breathing to a level where you can speak and sing would be light; where you can speak but not sing would be medium level and where you can’t speak or sing would be a high level, which would not be recommended for seniors. You don’t need to go overboard; as long as you are moving and doing at least some exercise you are making a beneficial difference to your health and fitness.

Yoga – the all round exercise that anyone can do.

Yoga is the kind of exercise that you can do till the day you die and you can do it to your own ability. If you did join a class and the person next to you can get their leg round their neck, that’s great for them, but it doesn’t mean you have to do it. It is your exercise, for your benefit and no-one else’s. It feels great whilst you’re doing it and you feel great afterwards.

It has all the benefits of more vigorous exercise,

  • Strength in muscles, to aid walking and moving
  • Flexibility of joints and the body generally
  • Stress relief to help with pain and mental relaxation by decreasing Cortisol.
  • Yoga breathing exercises improve lung function, which has a knock on benefit for the heart
  • May reduce blood pressure
  • May reduce Chronic pain
  • Improves sleep quality by increasing Melatonin.
  • Mind-body awareness.

If you don’t fancy going to a class, then Amazon do a great range of DVDs that you can then do at your leisure, at a time convenient to you. You can choose from seated chair yoga if your mobility is compromised, beginners or, if you have done it before you could go for the intermediate one.

If you think you wouldn’t be able to get up off the floor if you got down there, you could always do some of them on your bed. Yoga is versatile and you can cherry pick the exercises that are suitable for you. If you can’t do an exercise, move onto the next. You will build up strength, stamina and flexibility as you practice, and will dramatically improve your physicality as you go.

Isometrics – to fit in with your every day life.

This exercise can be done whilst doing other things, such as showering, so you don’t have to set aside specific time.

It was put together in the 1960s by an American from Los Angeles, Bruce Tegner, who said he considered Isometrics to be superior to weight lifting, machine exercise and tedious drills.

It has been developed further so that those who want to combine it with weightlifting to build their muscles up further can do so, but the book on the right is, I think, nearer to the original book.  Suitable for people who don’t want to designate specific time to exercise.

Getting started safely.

If you haven’t exercised in years then it is only common sense to, firstly, get checked over by the doctor to make sure there is no reason why you shouldn’t do any specific exercise. When you get the all clear, do start slowly; just because you used to be able to do 20 push-ups doesn’t mean you should try to do the same now; choose your exercises carefully.

If your balance isn’t what it used to be, maybe do some of the exercises close to where you could have a soft landing – your settee or easy chair maybe.

Take your time and be patient with your body. It’s a bit of a shock to the system for some, and you have to stick with it to get results.

Reap the benefits – enjoy your new body.

Rather than being a chore, exercise can give you a new lease on life. A study done at a care home some years ago took one group of residents and had them exercise every day. Another group just sat in front of the TV all day. Some in the group who exercised were able to throw away their walking frames and others were able to drastically reduce the medication they were on.

So it goes to show it is never too late to start improving your health and fitness through exercise. You never know, you might start to enjoy it. You will certainly enjoy the results.

Happy exercising.


Therapeutic Living Inspiration