Exercise for Older Adults | 10 Tips You Need to Know
Don’t believe the myth that you have to take it easy and stay put if you’re getting up in years. Senior and middle-aged athletes can be just as fit and active as their younger peers, and there are some easy things you can do to make sure you stay in the game well into your golden years. We’ve broken down 10 exercise tips for older adults to help you stay at your peak for as long as you’re young at heart.
1. Use Proper Form
Aging individuals can make gains just as well as their younger counterparts. Getting older doesn’t mean you must abandon the weight room. That said, there are definitely some things you should bear in mind when hitting the bench press. According to the National Institute on Aging, it’s important to
- Keep your breathing controlled and steady while you lift
- Use smooth movements with your joints at slightly bent angles
- Increase volume slowly and gradually over time
This kind of exercise works for older adults because weight lifting has been proven to be more effective than cardio for boosting metabolism and increasing mobility. When done right, strength training can add a lot to your workout regimen and your daily life as a whole.
2. Stay the Course
As with anything in life, consistency is key. There’s a misconception that as you age you need to tone down the frequency of your activity, but it might surprise you to learn how little you really have to pare down your gym visits.
The Department of Health and Human Services recommends that older adults exercise for just as long as younger ones: 2.5 to 5 hours of moderate exercise (or 75 to 150) minutes of vigorous exercise per week, depending on which type of pacing you’re more comfortable with. Weight lifting is recommended as a twice-per-week activity. These ratios only need to be altered in consideration with chronic illness or disability.
3. Practicing Multicomponent Physical Activity
It might sound like a mouthful, but multicomponent physical activity is an important type of exercise for older adults. This kind of health regimen isn’t just important for fitness; it’s also a great way to maintain a balanced overall lifestyle.
The aforementioned Health and Human Services guide describes multicomponent physical activity as “physical activity that includes more than one type of physical activity, such as aerobics, muscle strengthening, and balance training.” It’s not as hard as seems. Multicomponent physical activity can be anything from dance lessons to bike riding, and many of these activities can be done in both social and private settings. This is the perfect kind of exercise for older adults because not only do these activities keep you fit, but they also keep you involved with the culture and world around you.
4. Maintain a Healthy Heart Rate
As we age, our optimal heart rate during exercises fluctuates. While your rate will vary depending on your age and fitness level, the ideal exercise heart rate for someone between the ages of 50 and 72 can be anywhere from around 75 to 130 beats per minute.
The American Cancer Society has a heart-rate calculator on their website that you can use to find your recommended exercise BPM. For older adults, it’s also vital that you exceed your target heart rate as little as possible and that you know if you’re taking medications that will alter or otherwise interfere with your heart rate during exercise. Even if the amount of time you spend exercising doesn’t change, you should be sure your heart rate remains in the safe zone. Knowing your limits is paramount when it comes to fitness as well as safety.
5. Get Into Yoga
We’ve already discussed the importance of multicomponent physical activity. Yoga is one of the most popular, easy-to-learn, and beneficial forms of multicomponent exercise you can practice. Yoga carries a number of benefits for adherents of all types and ages, and the ways this discipline can helpfully affect the lives of older individuals are many and varied.
Studies have shown that yoga can increase the quality of life for people suffering from diseases that particularly affect seniors, such as cancer and cardiovascular disease. Something many people may not know is that yoga can also be used to build muscle. The core and lower back muscles get quite a workout from yoga, which makes it great for practicing balance too. This makes it a fantastic form of exercise for older adults who want to build strength but may not have the physical ability or inclination to bench-press heavy barbells.
6. Use Braces
For older adults who exercise, braces can offer a number of critical benefits that include?
- Lessening running friction on the field
- Increasing the mobility of your joints
- Maximizing the kinetic energy of your body
They work great for general quality-of-life improvement whether at the gym or on the field, but more importantly, they’re beneficial for their ability to remediate and prevent injury.
Knee braces, for example, have been proven to help guard against everything from tendinitis in the legs to ACL tears. While these conditions can befall athletes of all ages, seniors and middle-aged practitioners are more at risk for knee problems. Wrist braces can also be a boon for those with arthritis who still might want to hit the weights every now and again. And whether you have back problems or a fragile hip, a good brace can go a long way when it comes to stopping needless injury in its tracks.
7. Set and Keep Goals
Exercise for older adults doesn’t have to be arduous or frustrating, but sometimes taking on too much too fast can lead to burnout. That’s because you can get despondent that you’re not as fast or strong as you were when you were younger. A simple way to avoid getting discouraged is to have a realistic timetable and to set of goals for what you want to accomplish.
Pair short-term goals, such as establishing a couple of days a week to lift weights, with long-term goals, like setting an amount of weight you want to drop in a certain amount of time. With that plan in place, you’ll be surprised at how motivated you’ll stay. An older adult can exercise for several minutes every day or condense their workout into more intense bursts throughout the week and see significant gains when hitting the scale or escalating the free-weight volume. You can download a goal-setting worksheet to help keep yourself on track and bring yourself closer to where you want to be, step by step.
8. Get Your Stroll On
Fitness doesn’t necessarily mean pumping iron and getting yourself conditioned for Olympic-level sprinting. Sometimes staying in shape can literally be as simple as a walk in the park.
Walking is an underrated form of exercise for older adults. It has a multitude of benefits. Frequent walks are shown to
- Decrease the risk of developing or exacerbating chronic illnesses like heart disease and diabetes
- Reduce arthritis pain
- Carry the same weight loss potential as running (as long as the same number of calories are burned per session)
Walking also has a less obvious advantage: it’s one of the easiest exercises to stick with. Since it lacks the intimidation factor of something like weight lifting and is less demanding than running, you’re more likely to walk frequently, making it one of the most beneficial types of exercise for older adults.
9. Dress for Success
Dressing for exercise is more than just pulling a comfy pair of shoes out of the closet and throwing on a loose-fitting T-shirt. The particulars of how you dress for exercise matter more than a lot of people realize at first.
For example, the term “athletic shoe” is something of a catch-all, but different types of shoes within that designation can make a big difference for your workout plans. For older adults to exercise at their potential, it’s necessary to think of things like the type of exercise you want to do, the shape of your foot, and when your workout shoes might be getting worn and need replacement. Coordinating your activewear by temperature and activity is important too: it’s vital to wear warm hoodies or jackets when exercising in cold weather, even when you’re working up a sweat, so as not to aggravate arthritis symptoms or expose yourself to the possibility of flu. Using common sense and a little wardrobe planning will go a long way to making sure you get the most out of your workouts.
10. Work Through Pain
Exercise for older adults can sometimes be more of a trial than for younger ones, even with all these tips in mind. Sometimes you lift a weight too fast and throw yourself out of whack, or sometimes your hip flares up just as you were settling in to make some gains. But working out can actually be good for pain if you know how to use your regimen in a therapeutic manner.
Back stretches can be easy ways to rebuild strength and coordination in your lower back and can provide immediate relief from chronic back problems. And while sore knees often inhibit exercise for older adults, putting them to work in small doses can actually be great for adults with arthritic knees. Seniors can even run and keep doing squats with osteoarthritis as long as they’re doing so in a safe manner.
Sometimes pain needs rest and relaxation to be put right, but sometimes reintroducing your body to motion can be just what the doctor ordered. And there are always supports available, no matter where your pain is located if you need a little extra help getting over the hurdle.
What’s the Bottom Line?
Many people are under the impression that exercise for older adults requires a lot of compromise, that you will need to either do less or be content with not hitting your goals. Nothing could be further from the truth. Once you take a few precautions and set out to find some workouts that are right for you, you can keep active well into old age and show the young guns a thing or two about how fitness and vitality don’t carry an expiration date.
If you want to get started on a new stage of health for your new stage of life, take some time to explore SportsBraces.com. We’ve got all types of apparel for older adults interested in exercise and carry many products designed specifically with orthopedic functionality in mind. We also have braces and wraps specifically for those who suffer from arthritis.
No matter how old you are or how many setbacks your body has had, we’ll be your one-stop outlet for everything you need to stay comfortable and safe while getting into shape. Take the next step in making yourself the fittest, happiest version of you that you can be.