More than half of adults older than 65 are considered inactive, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This is unfortunate, because staying physically active decreases risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. For seniors, physical activity also lowers the likelihood that they will experience a bone fracture or osteoporosis. Often, older adults know that physical activity is good for them, but they simply do not know how to go about getting enough exercise. Learning simple exercises that can be done anywhere, anytime — no fancy equipment required — can help you stay healthy as you age.
Daily Exercise Recommendations for Seniors
It is important for older adults to stay active every day. Engaging in physical activity increases blood flow to your muscles, strengthens your bones, and keeps your cardiovascular system healthy.
The CDC recommends that older adults aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week. This translates to 30 minutes, five days per week. Moderate-intensity aerobic activity may sound daunting, but it includes a lot of everyday activities that are relatively easy to perform. Walking briskly, swimming, dancing or heavy gardening count as moderate-intensity activities. Older adults should also perform strength-training exercises two days per week. The best strength-training exercises work all of your major muscle groups, including legs, arms, hips, back, chest and abdomen.
Although 150 minutes per week may seem like a lot of aerobic exercise, your 30 minutes per day do not need to be performed all at once. Performing exercise throughout the day that adds up to 30 minutes total also counts. For example, you could take three 10-minute exercise breaks throughout the day to reach your goal.
Exercises You Can Do Anywhere
Getting aerobic activity doesn’t mean that you need to join a gym to log miles on a treadmill. All kinds of everyday activities count. Consider the following exercises that can be done at home:
- Jogging in place. Set a timer for 10 minutes and jog in place. Alternatively, you may switch between one minute of jogging and one minute of jumping jacks. These activities are moderate-impact exercises that are easier on your joints than running.
- Go for a walk. Brisk walking is one of the easiest ways to incorporate more exercise into your routine. Grab your dog, walk with your partner, or gather some of your friends for a daily walk.
- Clean the lawn. We often overlook the moderate-intensity activities that we do in the course of everyday life. For example, raking your leaves, using a push lawn mower, or hauling mulch in a wheelbarrow all count as moderate-intensity activities.
- Use your stairs. Take advantage of the stairs in your home by doing a few laps up and down. Five trips up and down the stairs will get your heart pumping faster, providing cardiovascular benefit.
- Have a dance party. It’s fine to get a little silly with your exercise. Play your favorite tunes and dance in the privacy of your own home. Alternatively, grab a partner for some ballroom dance practice.
Many older adults are intimidated by the idea of performing strength-training exercises. However, any exercise that causes you to bear weight can help to strengthen your muscles and joints. This is a major factor in preventing injury as you grow older. Consider the following exercises:
- Body weight exercises. Using your own body weight is a fantastic approach to build strength. Pushups, planking, and sit-ups are great ways to strengthen your major muscle groups. Begin with 10 pushups, holding a plank position for 30 seconds, and 10 situps. Repeat three times.
- Raid your pantry. If you don’t have dumbbells, grab two cans from your pantry. Hold them in your hands, do 10 bicep curls, and raise the cans above your head 10 times. This strengthens your shoulders and arms.
- Squats and wall sits. Squats strengthen the legs, buttocks and core muscles. Stand with your legs shoulder-width apart, slowly lower yourself so your thighs are nearly parallel to the floor, and stand back up. For a similar exercise, lean against a wall in a seated position to strengthen your legs.