Staying active as you get older has more health benefits than you might think. Being physically active can help you stay independent for longer and improve your quality of life. And it’s never too late to start. Research shows that even if you’ve never been a regular exerciser, you can still build muscle mass and improve heart function, and gain other benefits.
The National Institute on Aging recommends focusing on four key areas of physical activity: endurance, flexibility, strength and balance. Here are some easy ways to do that so you can stay active.
Sometimes referred to as aerobic activities, endurance exercises increase your breathing and heart rates. They improve your heart function, lungs and circulatory system. They may also help prevent diabetes, colon and breast cancers, and heart disease. Build your endurance with these kinds of activities:
- Playing tennis
- Brisk walking
Improving your flexibility increases your range of motion, making it easier for you to reach, bend, stretch and turn. Stretching regularly can also help ease joint pain. Try some of these simple stretches. (There are demonstration videos here.)
Overhead Side Stretch
Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart. Raise your arms overhead. You can interlace your fingers if you want to. Keeping your torso long, gently lean to the left, and hold for 10 to 30 seconds. Return to center. Repeat on the other side.
Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart. Raise your arms overhead. Bend your right arm so it’s behind your head. Place your left hand above your right elbow, and gently draw your right arm in. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds. Release, switch arms, and repeat.
Stand with your left leg in front and slightly bent, and your right leg straight behind you. If you’d like, perform this move near a wall or counter, holding on for support. Gently press your right heel into the floor to feel a comfortable stretch. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds. Release, switch legs, repeat.
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends weight training for everyone over the age of 50. Here’s what adding this kind of activity can do for you.
- Add muscle mass. People tend to start losing muscle mass as early as their 30s at a rate of about 5% per decade. If nothing is done to combat it, it’s possible to lose as much as half your muscle mass by the time you’re in your 70s. Incorporating weight training and into your exercise routine can help you rebuild that muscle.
- Protect your heart. A 2019 study found adults who did at least an hour per week of weight training reduced their risk of heart attack or stroke by 40% to 70% when compared to those who didn’t exercise.
- Make daily tasks easier. When your body is stronger, you can do more. A study at the University of Alabama found that healthy women ages 60 to 77 could carry groceries and get up from a chair with much less effort after just four months of weightlifting three hours a week.
- Prevent broken bones. Weight training builds bone mass in the hips and spine, and it also increases strength, balance and agility. This means your bones can become stronger and you’ll be less likely to fall and break or fracture something.
Strength Training With Weights
Weightlifting exercises should be challenging to your body, but not stress it. Start with a weight you can manage comfortably for eight repetitions.
- Take three seconds to lift the weight, breathing in as you do so. Hold the weight for one second.
- Then take three seconds to lower it, breathing in as you do.
- Once you can do that easily eight times in a row, work your way up to 15 repetitions.
- When you can do 15 reps easily, add a pound of weight.
- Take a day off between sessions for each muscle group. Or you can exercise your upper body one day and your lower body the next.
Getting Stronger With Resistance Bands
Resistance bands help strengthen muscles and your core. You can add them to your exercise routine to do both upper and lower body exercises such as leg lifts, triceps presses, bicep curls, and this lateral raise:
- While standing, step on the middle of the resistance band, keeping both feet flat on the floor. Hold both ends of your band.
- Raise both arms out to the side up to shoulder height.
- Return to your starting position.
- Repeat 10 to 15 times.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart in front of a step or low piece of furniture.
If needed, hold on to the wall or a sturdy piece of furniture for balance. Slowly raise one foot to tap the step in front of you, then slowly return it to the floor. Perform 15 to 20 taps, then repeat on the opposite leg.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart. If needed, hold onto the wall or a sturdy piece of furniture for balance. Slowly move your head from side to side then up and down, keeping your body as still as possible. Do this for 30 seconds, and repeat. If you get dizzy, pause and move your head more slowly. If you’re still dizzy, stop.
Single Leg Stands
Stand with your feet hip-width apart. If needed, hold on to the wall or a sturdy piece of furniture for balance. Lift one foot an inch off the floor while keeping your torso straight and without leaning toward your planted foot. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds, then slowly return your foot to the floor. Repeat on the opposite leg. Perform five stands on each leg.
Staying Active at Aberdeen Ridge
At Aberdeen Ridge, we’re about empowering you to continue pursuing a dynamic, meaningful lifestyle. Peak Living is going to be the foundation for a community environment that connects your lifestyle with your interests. It’s an evolving array of special programming built upon direct and ongoing resident input.
The Peak Living Health & Wellness series will be our holistic approach that integrates six dimensions of wellness — physical, social, spiritual, intellectual, creative, service — to improve your health and happiness. From structured fitness classes and swim time in the heated indoor pool to hiking and biking in nearby Garden of the Gods, you’ll have plenty of ways you can stay active and improve your overall well-being. Learn more about it here.