While you may not feel quite as energetic or flexible as you did in your twenties, maintaining a regular exercise routine into your 50s, 60s and 70s can have a significantly positive effect on both your physical and mental health.
However, issues such as muscle tightness and weaker bones as you age can make you more susceptible to exercise-related injuries. In order to enjoy the many benefits of exercise without pain or discomfort, check out our practical tips for exercising safely in your senior years.
Why is it important to stay active as you age?
Studies have shown that engaging in regular physical activity can help to reduce the risk of a number of diseases and health conditions, including heart disease and stroke, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, certain types of cancers, depression, and dementia.
In addition, exercise can assist with weight management, improve bone health, and even help to reduce the risk of falls and fall-related injuries.
Fitness tips for seniors: Reducing the risk of exercise injuries
1. Never skip the warm-up
Warming up your muscles prior to engaging in physical activity is an important step in minimising your chance of injury and soreness, especially in your senior years. Take 5-10 minutes to do some gentle stretches or low-intensity movement on a stationary bike or elliptical machine before you start your workout.
2. Wear the right exercise attire
While you may not be too fussed about sporting the latest workout fashion, ensuring your clothes and shoes are comfortable and designed for the type of activity you’re undertaking can help to avoid pain and injury as you get older. Supportive footwear in particular will provide your feet with the cushioning they need to minimise impact damage.
3. Opt for low-impact exercises
As we age, our bones and joints – particularly our knees – become more susceptible to strains and injuries. For this reason, it’s best to choose lower-impact activities such as walking or swimming, which will place less pressure on the joints compared with high-intensity exercises.
4. Be mindful of pain and discomfort
Although it’s normal to feel a little soreness after exercising, it’s crucial to listen to your body and address any persistent pain or discomfort. For example, muscle pain that lasts for more than a week or joint pain that persists for more than a couple of days may require further treatment, so it’s important to get these professionally examined.
5. Stretch regularly
As your body gets older, your muscles naturally lose their flexibility and become less limber. By engaging in a regular stretching routine, you can help to reduce the risk of tendon tears and other muscular injuries. Yoga or pilates are both great exercise options to keep muscles flexible and injury-free.
What type of exercise is best for seniors?
Now you know how to approach your exercise routine, what kind of activity is best as you get older? Here are some fantastic options which will keep you fit and healthy without putting your body under too much stress:
- Walking: Use a treadmill in the gym or get outside in the fresh air and enjoy this gentle yet effective exercise.
- Swimming: Whether in your local pool or the ocean, swimming is a great low-impact exercise option that’s ideal for seniors.
- Strength training: Lifting weights or using weight machines 2-3 times per week can help to improve muscle tone and bone density.
- Dancing: A fun way to get moving, dancing can be an enjoyable exercise to keep fit and lose weight. Find a group class such as Zumba or simply have fun in your own home!
- Tai Chi: This ancient Chinese martial art is a popular exercise choice that’s suitable for people of all ages and fitness levels.
Your GP will be able to advise on safe options for exercise based on your age, physical health, current medications, and any pre-existing conditions such as lung disease or heart issues.
You may also benefit from working with a certified personal trainer who can tailor a fitness program to suit your age and help you enjoy the benefits of exercise safely.