Best Exercises for Seniors Over 70

12/01/2024

The golden years are an opportune time to invest in one's health, with exercise being a keystone habit to foster. Engaging in physical activity, even at an advanced age, can offer profound benefits in terms of both mental and physical well-being. 

For those in the over-70 bracket, the question isn't if one should exercise, but how best to do so. In this article, we’re going go take a look at the best exercises for seniors over 70, offering guidance on maintaining an active and fulfilling lifestyle, and exercising safely as you age. Let’s take a look!

Why Exercise is Key for Seniors

Exercise is a cornerstone of health at every stage of life, but as we age, its importance becomes increasingly paramount. Here's why:

Physical Health Benefits

Muscle mass tends to diminish with age, making seniors more susceptible to falls and fractures. Regular exercise helps maintain muscle strength, bone density, and overall mobility. It also aids in combating various age-associated ailments, including osteoporosis, arthritis, and heart disease, by promoting better blood circulation and joint flexibility.

Cognitive Function

Research suggests a strong correlation between physical activity and cognitive health. Exercising has been shown to potentially delay the onset of dementia and Alzheimer's. It bolsters brain function by improving blood flow, thereby ensuring that the brain receives adequate oxygen and nutrients.

Mental Well-being

Beyond the physical realm, exercise plays a significant role in mental health. It's a natural mood booster, helping to alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety; plus, the endorphins released during physical activity can act as natural painkillers and mood boosters, which can be especially beneficial for seniors facing age-related challenges.

Social Connection

Engaging in group exercises or classes can offer seniors a chance to socialise, fostering community connections and reducing feelings of isolation. This social aspect can be as therapeutic as the exercise itself, offering a sense of belonging and purpose. Plus, if you opt for private healthcare for over 70s, some UK providers may include discounted gym memberships in their policies, so you can keep active on a budget.

Independence and Quality of Life

One of the most profound benefits of exercising in the senior years is the enhancement of independence. Being physically active ensures that seniors can continue to perform daily tasks without assistance, from grocery shopping to gardening, thus maintaining a higher quality of life.

Best Exercises for Seniors Over 70

Close up look on retired women lunging at fitness club

For seniors, the focus should be on low-impact exercises that offer benefits without straining the body. Here are some of the best exercises tailored to the needs and capabilities of those over 70:

Walking

Often underrated, walking is one of the most effective and accessible forms of exercise. It improves cardiovascular health, strengthens the legs, and boosts mood. Whether it's a brisk walk in the park or a leisurely stroll around the neighbourhood, walking can be easily integrated into daily routines.

Swimming

Offering a full-body workout, swimming is gentle on the joints, making it perfect for seniors. It helps enhance muscle tone, cardiovascular health, and flexibility.

Tai Chi

This ancient Chinese practice, often described as "meditation in motion," is ideal for seniors. Tai Chi focuses on gentle movements and deep breathing, improving balance, flexibility, and peace of mind.

Seated Yoga

While traditional yoga might be challenging for some seniors, seated yoga offers a great alternative. It focuses on stretching, balance, and mindfulness, all while seated on a chair.

Resistance Band Exercises

These exercises are fantastic for muscle strengthening without the need for heavy weights. Resistance bands are versatile and can be used to work various muscle groups.

Balance Exercises

Maintaining balance is crucial for preventing falls. Simple exercises like standing on one foot, heel-to-toe walk, or leg lifts can be beneficial.

Incorporating these exercises into a regular routine can be transformative for seniors, ensuring they enjoy their later years with vigour and vitality. However, as with any exercise regime, it's essential to consider individual capabilities and consult a healthcare professional before embarking on a new program.

What to Avoid

While it's essential to stay active as we age, there are certain exercises and practices seniors should approach with caution or perhaps avoid altogether.

High-impact Activities

Exercises such as running, jumping, or any activity that involves sudden, intense movements can be tough on ageing joints and could increase the risk of injury.

Complex Movements

Any exercise requiring complex choreography or rapid changes in direction might pose a risk for those with balance issues. Activities like certain dance aerobics can be challenging and potentially dangerous if not adapted for seniors.

Heavy Weightlifting

While resistance training is beneficial, lifting very heavy weights can strain the heart and increase the risk of injury. It's better to opt for lighter weights with more repetitions, focusing on form and control.

Overexertion

Seniors should be especially cautious about pushing themselves too hard. It's essential to recognise signs of exhaustion, dehydration, or discomfort and to give oneself adequate rest between exercise sessions.

How to Exercise Safely as a Senior

Safety should always be the primary consideration when embarking on any exercise regimen, particularly for seniors.

  • Medical Clearance: Before beginning any new exercise program, it's crucial to consult with a healthcare provider, especially if there are pre-existing conditions or concerns. Your GP should be able to advise you on an appropriate exercise program for seniors.
  • Warm-up and Cool-down: These are non-negotiable components of any workout. Warming up preps the body for exercise, increasing blood flow and loosening muscles. Cooling down, meanwhile, helps to gradually bring the heart rate back to its resting state and can aid in preventing muscle stiffness.
  • Stay Hydrated: With age, our thirst receptors might not be as active. That makes it vital for seniors to remember to drink water before, during, and after exercising to stay hydrated.
  • Listen to Your Body: Pain is a clear indicator that something might be wrong. While it's natural to experience some discomfort when trying a new activity, sharp or persistent pain is a sign to stop and seek advice.
  • Use Supportive Equipment: Non-slip shoes, appropriate gym wear, and even aids like walking sticks or handrails can offer additional support and safety.

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