Exercise: Have Fun and be Safe

Exercise should no longer be a dirty word for seniors.  At one time exercise was judged to be too dangerous, too vigorous for older adults due to frailty and/or fear of being injured by exercise.  However, a number of well-conducted studies over the last several years have shown that a variety of exercises are not only safe for older adults but have enormous advantages.  In fact, staying active can help you:

  • Ÿ  Keep and improve your strength so you can stay independent.
  • Ÿ  Have more energy to do the things you want to do.
  • Ÿ  Improve your balance.
  • Ÿ  Prevent or delay some diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
  • Ÿ  Perk up your mood and help reduce depression.

To get all of the benefits of physical activity, try all four types of exercise:

1.  Endurance:  Be sure to get at least 30 minutes of activity that makes you breathe hard on most or all days of the week. That’s called an endurance activity because it builds your energy or “staying power.” You don’t have to be active for 30 minutes all at once. Ten minutes at a time is fine. Just make sure you are active for a total of 30 minutes most days. How hard do you need to push yourself? If you can talk without any trouble at all, you are not working hard enough. If you can’t talk at all, it’s too hard.

2.  Strength:  Strength exercises build muscles. When you have strong muscles, you can get up from a chair by yourself, you can lift your grandchildren, and you can walk through the park.  You are less likely to fall when your leg and hip muscles are strong.  Strength exercises involve providing resistance to your muscles.  This can be done with weights or using your body weight, such as push-ups, squats, and sit-ups.

 3.  Balance:  Balance training allows us to prevent or delay the use of assistive devices for walking and to prevent falls.  Balance activities can be incorporated into your strength exercises.  Squats and lunges can be progressed from hanging onto a counter or bar to not hanging onto anything.

4.  Flexibility:  Stretching can help you be more flexible. Moving more freely will make it easier for you to reach down to tie your shoes or look over your shoulder when you back the car out of your driveway. Stretch when your muscles are warmed up. Don’t stretch so far that it hurts.

You are more likely to keep up an exercise program if you are doing activities that you enjoy.  So, no more excuses, find an activity or activities that interest you and start working them into your schedule!  Remember, your physical and occupational therapists are great resources for starting an exercise program!

Allison Bakke, OTR/L

Above & Beyond Senior Services