According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), regular exercise is one of the most important things you can do for your health as you age. If you have no serious health limitations, the CDC recommends that adults age 65 and over get at least 150 minutes of moderately intense aerobic exercise and two or more days of strength training each week. If you haven’t been physically fit your whole life, it’s never too late to start. Here are some simple exercises you can do to increase strength, flexibility, and endurance as well as prevent your risk of chronic disease as you age.
Aerobic exercise is crucial at all stages of life for improved health and well-being. Physical activity can decrease your risk for heart disease, diabetes, and some types of cancer. It can also reduce pain from arthritis. Low-impact exercises such as brisk walking, swimming, cycling, rowing, tennis, hiking, and aqua aerobics can improve your cardiovascular health. Low-intensity exercise, such as gardening, can also help to improve physical fitness.
If you’re just starting out, begin with five minutes of activity each day and gradually work your way up to 30 minutes, or more, daily. Consider starting a walking group in your neighborhood, or join an organized club or sport if you’d like to meet new people with similar interests.
Around the age of 50, lean body mass begins to decrease. Strength training can help to improve your muscle elasticity as you age. It’s never too late to begin a strength training program to see its benefits. Strength training can improve balance, range of motion, and bone density.
Simple exercises that can be done from a seated position include bicep curls, overhead shoulder presses, and triceps extensions. Light weights, soup cans, or filled water bottles can be used for any of these upper-body exercises. Use caution and make sure you’re using a weight comfortable for you because recovery time and the risk of joint-related injuries increase with age.
Using your bodyweight to perform resistance training exercises helps maintain lean body mass as you age. This helps to improve posture, core strength, and bone density. Wall squats, push-ups, planks, and pelvic bridging exercises are simple exercises you can do at home to improve your overall strength, posture, and flexibility. Most exercises can be modified if you have any physical limitations.
Balance and flexibility
Improving balance can help reduce your risk of falls and fractures as you age. Try these simple balance exercises at home:
For the “chair stand”: Begin in a seated position in an armless chair. Maintaining good posture, extend your arms parallel to the ground and slowly stand up without using your hands for support. Sit back down and repeat this move 10-15 times for two sets.
For the “toe stand”: Stand behind a chair and slowly rise up on your tiptoes. After holding the position for a moment, slowly lower your heels back to the floor; only use the chair for support if you need it. Repeat this move 10-15 times for two sets.
If you’re up for something new, try a low-impact exercise class such as gentle yoga, Pilates, or tai chi to improve core strength, balance, and flexibility.
The bottom line
A small commitment of only 30 minutes each day can make a big difference in improving your health and well-being. The benefits of improved balance, flexibility, strength, and endurance can help you feel great as you age. Remember to consult a health professional before beginning any exercise program.
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Carmen Roberts, M.S., R.D., L.D.N., is a registered dietitian, receiving her undergraduate degree in dietetics from James Madison University and her master’s degree in health education and administration from Towson University. She is a certified specialist in adult weight management and teaches cooking classes. Carmen enjoys educating her clients about how nutrition affects the body and its role in overall health and wellness. She also loves volunteering, including as a Girl Scout troop leader.