‘Use it or lose it’ isn’t just a saying!

Exercise is as fundamental to healthy living as clean air, proper nutrition and pure water. More importantly, in a time when human lifespans are continually growing, exercise is fundamental to healthy aging as well.

Dwindling muscle mass, loss of flexibility and stubborn weight gain are common aspects of aging for people over 50. Too many seniors, however, believe there is nothing that can be done to reverse, or slow down, the body’s natural decline.

In fact, exercise for seniors can improve flexibility, boost energy levels and reduce muscle loss. Just as important, exercise can keep our cardiovascular system functioning well, keeping cardiac disease and numerous other medical conditions at bay.

Before launching a renewed commitment to physical activity in your senior years, make sure to visit your doctor first and get a check-up to identify any underlying medical issues that might restrict your exercise routine. Hiring a personal trainer or joining a workout group are also good ways to stay motivated and work within your capabilities.

What kinds of exercise are most suitable for the elderly? Begin with walking, either outdoors, on a treadmill or indoors as part of a mall-walking group. Walk until you’re tired, then try to gradually increase your times as you gain strength and endurance.

Light weight training is also highly beneficial in keeping muscles working and improving your flexibility. Low-impact options include rubber-band resistance training, aquatic exercise and gym-based circuit training.

Whatever exercise routine you choose, always remember to begin slowly, give yourself time for warming up and cooling down, and stop whenever you feel tired or pain of any kind. If you feel chest pain, stop exercising immediately and consult a doctor.

Physical exercise for seniors doesn’t have to be difficult, strenuous or overly planned. You can begin at home, increasing the amount of physical activity associated with daily chores, yardwork, or even walking your dog. There are also specific exercises such as chair squats or wall push-ups that can be done at home anytime.

Seniors will also find benefits in low-impact group activities such as yoga, tai chi, and even dance classes.

Whatever kind of exercise program you choose, try to commit to 30 minutes a day of focused exercise. Your body will thank you for it!

Learn More

The medical community offers a wealth of information, resources and printable materials to help you start an exercise routine in your senior years. Get started by visiting the American Academy of Family Physicians or the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons for more information. You’ll also find plenty of lifestyle, diet and exercise help at Livestrong.com.