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How to Be an Active, Healthy Senior

How to Be an Active, Healthy Senior

Physical activity is essential for healthy aging. Being physically active makes it easier to perform such daily activities as eating, bathing, dressing, walking up and down stairs, and moving around the house or neighborhood—activities that get harder with age.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the loss of strength and stamina attributed to aging is caused in part by reduced physical activity. It’s important to note: inactivity increases with age. By 75, about 1 in 3 men and 1 in 2 women engage in no physical activity.

That being said, regular exercise can help to maintain healthy body weight, prevent certain health challenges like frailty and hip fractures, and improve functional limitations of daily living. Physically active older adults are less likely to experience falls and less likely to get hurt if they do fall.

It’s key to preventing and managing chronic diseases and maintaining healthy bones, muscles, and joints. It also helps to lower your risk of dementia, increase your quality of life, and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. Regular physical activity can even aid in reducing the risk of coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, and joint swelling and pain associated with arthritis. Plus, it’s great for social engagement and interaction.

Fitness Guidelines & Trends for Seniors

For adults ages 65 years and older, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services recommends the following fitness guidelines:

  • Move more and sit less throughout the day. Some physical activity is better than none at all.
  • For substantial health benefits, do at least 2.5 to 5 hours a week of moderate-intensity, 1.25 to 2.5 hours of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity or a combination of both. Aerobic exercise should be spread throughout the week.
  • Add muscle-strengthening activities of moderate-to-higher intensity that involve 2 or more major muscle groups a week.
  • As part of weekly physical activity, opt for multicomponent physical activities that include balance training as well as aerobic and muscle-strengthening exercises.
  • Determine your level of effort for physical activity relative to your level of fitness.
  • Older adults with chronic conditions should understand how their conditions may affect their ability to safely participate in regular physical activity.
  • If you are unable to do the recommended amount of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each week because of chronic conditions, try to be as physically active as your abilities and conditions allow.

So, what fitness trends are seniors turning to this year?

  • Yoga and other balance-based classes help to prevent falls and provide mental clarity and peace of mind. Yoga also addresses health conditions common with aging, including arthritis, flexibility, hypertension, and osteoporosis. (Did you know that we offer senior yoga classes through ProMotion Fitness+? Space is limited and pre-registration is suggested, but drop-ins are offered for a fee if space is available.)
  • The American College of Sports Medicine says fitness trackers and other wearable technology is the top exercise trend of the year. Older adults are switching to smart watches and fitness trackers (e.g., Fitbit) to monitor their heart rate, steps, and more.
  • Walking clubs offer socializing and exercising. Walking is great for circulation, lowering blood pressure, and other heart benefits. Frederick Walkers, for example, meets every Tuesday evening for a walk around Baker Park.
  • Water-based sports such as swimming and water aerobics are great for seniors. Water fluidity is gentle and soothing for aching joints; the tranquil quality of water is good for stress, anxiety, and depression; and although it’s low-impact, water aerobics will get your heart pumping. Try an Aqua Zumba or Hydro Pilates class at YMCA of Frederick County.
  • Tai chi is a light-intensity physical activity that combines slow, graceful movements with meditation. As part of our integrative medicine services at the James M Stockman Cancer Institute, we offer tai chi to improve our patients’ physical, spiritual, and mental health during and after cancer treatments.

Keep in mind that older adults should always consult with a physician before beginning a new physical activity program.

Don’t Forget to Warm Up & Cool Down

Stretching exercises increase flexibility and allow seniors to do activities more easily. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services recommends that all senior fitness exercise programs include warm-up and cool-down activities.

A warm-up before aerobic exercise—e.g., walking lunges or arm circles—allows a gradual increase in heart rate and breathing at the start of the activity. A cool-down afterward—e.g., stretching the arms and legs or walking—allows your heart rate to gradually decrease at the end of the exercise.

The ideal time to do these stretches is right before and/or right after exercise, but seniors may benefit from stretching at other times, as well: in the morning after waking up, after a long car or plane ride, after sitting for a while, or if you’re feeling drowsy and need a boost of energy.

Local Senior Fitness Resources Available to You

Frederick Regional Health System encourages all seniors in Frederick County to live an active, healthy life. We invite you to visit ProMotion Fitness+ for a safe, supportive environment designed to help you reach your exercise goals. We provide early prevention and help you manage chronic disease. We’ll work with you and your healthcare provider to develop an exercise plan that meets your specific needs. Learn more on our website.

We also encourage you to research the variety of programs that currently exist In our area that can help you maintain your wellness and independence. Here are just a few available: