According to Chakravarty and colleagues, exercise reduces disability and improves quality of life in aging adults in the U.S. The research team of Burton, Khan and Brown found the older aged group prefers physical activities on their own time schedule, that can be done alone or with people their own age and activities with built in convenience.
Tips for Exercising
The winter season poses special problems for elderly adults who usually exercise outdoors. As with any age group, the older person needs to possess a regular and sustained program. Integration of the activity into daily living routines assists in maintaining a program. Increasing the activities gradually prevents unwanted side effects of sore muscles, excess fatigue or injuries. If an individual has chronic pain, taking medication one hour before exercise can alleviate discomfort during exercising. A minimum of 30 minutes of exercise three times a week is recommended.
Walking remains the best exercise for heart health, muscle strengthening and balance due to the aerobic nature of the physical activity. The activity decreases osteoporosis and helps prevents falls. If a person dislikes electronic treadmills, walking in covered malls provides a resourceful alternative to the mechanical machine. The use of a pedometer, available at most drug stores, adds an incentive of knowing the distance covered at each episode of walking. If one desires a more convenient method to incorporate walking into daily activities, park the car at a distance from the doorway to malls, churches and other locations.
Indoor swimming pools provide a suitable niche for the elderly who possess a high prevalence of osteoarthritis joint problems. Community indoor pools routinely offer senior discounted rates to encourage participation by the older age group. Swimming provides aerobic exercise and maintains overall body functioning and endurance.
Tai Chi encompasses a dance-like exercise characterized by continuous, slow flow movements. Since the 1990s with film clips from China, the western world initially viewed elderly groups performing Tai Chi and interest in this practice took off in the U.S. Tai Chi performed in groups benefits the physical, cognitive and social needs of older age adults; whereas, performed alone rewards the body with physical energy. According to Positive Health, Tai Chi exercises the entire body and cultivates inner strength. Many senior citizen centers, community colleges and adult education centers offer Tai Chi.
Since falls arise as a major problem in the 60+ age group, Helpguide.org recommends exercise to build strength and stamina, prevents bone mass loss and improves balance. Balance exercise means standing on one leg at a time while near a chair to prevent falling. This exercise improves ones equilibrium by practicing a few minutes a day three times a week.
Light Weight Lifting
A way to turn watching television into a dynamic exercise workout is by exercising the upper and lower extremities with one to two pound weights. A person can use commercial hand weights or a can of food (like soup or vegetable cans) for arm exercises. Lightweight bands of one to two pounds can be Velcro attached to the lower legs. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, one needs to start out slowly with five minute exercising and gradually increase to 30 minutes twice a week.
Exercising with Disabilities
For the older age group with disabilities, individuals should discuss with their physician about a referral to a physical therapist for a prescribed exercise program. Physical therapists assess individuals for movement deficiencies caused by chronic disease and provide specific exercises to benefit problem areas.
Boradhead, A. (2008) Universal Truths of Tai Chi. Positive Health, 149:40-43.
Burton, N.W., Khan, A. and Brown, W.J. (2012) How, Where and With Whom? Physical Activity Context Preferences of Three Adult Groups at Risk for Inactivity. British Journal of Sports Medicine,
Chakravarty, E.F. et al. (2012) Lifestyle Risk Factors Predict Disability and Death in Healthy Aging Adults. The American Journal of Medicine, 125(2):190-197.