One of the best anti-aging activities you can do for your body is exercise. For years, it has been widely accepted that we start getting slower, weaker and more fragile with age. But more recently, this has been proven otherwise by studies on the cellular process of aging and the impressive performances of older athletes.
Most research is now showing that when it comes to your fitness, if you use it, you lose it far less quickly. And you’ll also age more slowly and have a higher quality of life in your later years.
It can certainly get a bit more difficult to jump, sprint and move just as powerfully as you may have been able to do when you were younger. But most of the fitness loss can be drastically slowed by engaging in regular bouts of physical activity through adulthood and into your older years.
Weight lifting machines are perfect for introducing a senior to exercise, especially because there is significantly lower risk of falling or injury.
Treadmills can easily be used by seniors and can actually help with building both cardiovascular fitness and balance, as a rail is there to help. Elliptical trainers and bicycles are also good for cardiovascular endurance, and for beginners, a recumbent bicycle is a great option.
Rather than simply riding a bicycle at a set pace, seniors should attempt to include a few intervals that involve hard breathing and burning muscles. This will help to boost the slowing metabolism.
Bone grows stronger in response to loading and impact. While impact-sprinting on a treadmill may be difficult for seniors, loading of the bones and spinning along the long vertical axis is a very good idea, and can be achieved with exercises such as squats, overhead presses, chest presses or lunges.
While many yoga classes require a degree of balance that can be difficult for seniors, a beginner yoga class is the perfect activity for improving flexibility. In addition, a full-body stretch routine can be included after exercise, when the muscles and joints are more warm and pliable.
A WORKOUT PROGRAM FOR SENIORS
For an aging individual who is just getting into exercise, I’d recommend starting with the following routine, three to four times per week:
• Warm up for 10 minutes on a recumbent bicycle, alternating 2 minutes of easy pedaling with 2 minutes of hard pedaling.
• Perform a full-body stretch, including flexibility moves for the upper and lower body such as arm circles, leg circles, toe touches, reaching for the sky and torso twists.
• Do a full-body circuit on exercise machines that consists of 2-3 sets of 10-12 repetitions of chest press, seated row, shoulder press, pulldown, leg press, leg extension and leg curl.
• Finish with abdominal bracing on the ground, which simply involves lying on the ground with the knees bent and feet flat on the floor, then pressing the low back down and tightening the abs, holding for 5-10 seconds, releasing, and then repeating for 10-12 repetitions. This does not involve low-back bending and extending, and can build abdominal strength while being easier on the spine.
Remember, it’s never too late to start exercising.