Why is Exercise Important for Seniors?

By Mackenzie Park

Tending to your body, mind and spirit as you age helps you to feel younger. Just 30 minutes of exercise three to four times a week is the best way for seniors to maintain their health and independence as long as possible.

Aerobic activities will increase your breathing and heart rate. Strength exercises will make your muscles stronger. Together they can help you stay in shape and:

• Reduce your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes

• Build up your immune function

• Boost your memory and help prevent dementia

• Improve your balance and prevent falls

• Lift your spirits

Strike the right balance

To find exercises to match your fitness goals, meet with a wellness professional at your local Y or senior center, which offer a variety of senior-friendly programs including:

•Water classes like AquaFit and open swim allow seniors with arthritis and joint problems to bypass physical limitations and pain to build-up their aerobic and cardio endurance.

• Flexible or gentle chair yoga with a certified instructor promotes deeper breathing and mindfulness as well as improved range of motion and flexibility.

• Resistance exercises with weights; weight balls, stretch bands, ergonomic machines, and treadmills build arm and leg strength and endurance, especially for rehab patients.

Put your safety first

Be sure to choose activities you enjoy that are also appropriate for your physical condition. To ensure you have a positive experience during your workout:

• Listen to your body: Don’t hurt yourself by pushing yourself too hard. Start slowly and gradually increase the length and intensity of your workout.

• Modify your movements: Many instructors offer seated and standing modifications for exercises so everyone can participate, even those with mobility equipment.

• Nourish yourself: 30-60 minutes before and after exercise, drink water and eat protein to keep up your energy and ward off dizziness, light-headedness, and muscle cramping.

• Breathe: Don’t hold your breath; take deep breaths instead to help to prevent injury and bring oxygen to all your cells.

• Dress comfortably: Wear layers of loose-fitting, lightweight clothing to maintain a comfortable body temperature. Your sneakers should fit properly, provide excellent support, and be tied at all times. Wear water shoes around the pool.

Make exercising a life-long endeavor

If moving to senior living is in your future, look for a community that offers multiple levels of lifestyle and care options, a robust activities calendar and support staff to determine if your new home will help you maintain an active and independent lifestyle.

Now is the time to take the first step toward a healthier you. Start with a walk and see where it takes you!

Mackenzie Park is resident services lead at Chapel Oaks in Irondequoit, a Retirement Community that’s part of the continuum of care offered at St. Ann’s Community. Contact her at 585-697-6607 or mpark@mystanns.com or visit www.stannscommunity.com.

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