Its no secret; exercise is a major part of a healthier lifestyle prescription. There is an abundance of research that show the immense value of exercise for people of all ages and how physical activity protects against declining health. This is especially true for senior citizens.
However, some seniors are concerned that exercise may be too strenuous or may do them more harm. Furthermore, older adults have unique exercise and fitness needs. While there are plenty of gyms to choose from – some of which cater to women only, you will be hard-pressed to find any fitness programmes dedicated to seniors in Malaysia. As a result, many seniors lead sedentary lifestyles.
However, fitness is an essential regardless of age and should be a consistent lifestyle habit if we are to maintain our physical health at optimum levels.
Fortunately, there are ways to identify exercises that can enhance an elderly constitution. Without physical activity, older people tend to grow weaker in 4 key areas; strength, balance, flexibility and endurance. So it makes sense to develop these facets to prolong a healthy and fulfilling life.
Seniors in search for the right workout routine should look for these indicators:
Cardio endurance exercise
Cardio exercises are important for any age group, particularly for older adults. According to President of the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention in the U.S, the recommended amount of cardio exercise for healthy adults over age 65 should be at least two and a half hours of moderate-intensity exercise, 75 minutes of vigorous activity or a combination of both each week.
Regular cardio exercises not only strengthen your heart and lungs by increasing the amount of oxygen, it also helps you manage your weight, increase energy levels and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. It also sharpens your mind and may keep your appearance youthful.
Strength & power training
Research has demonstrated that strength training exercises is a weapon of choice in fighting declines associated with ageing. These exercises build muscle mass, preserve bone density, independence, and vitality with age. Furthermore, strength training has also shown the ability to reduce the risk of osteoporosis and the symptoms of numerous chronic diseases such as heart disease, arthritis, and type 2 diabetes, while also improving sleep.
For many older adults, maintaining mobility can be difficult since our muscles, joints and range of movement diminishes as we age. Hence, flexibility training is important for seniors as it helps to increase our range of motion and stay limber. Maintaining flexibility not only helps us to complete everyday tasks easily – such as bending down to tie your shoes or reaching to get a dish from a shelf, but also decrease the amount of energy exerted to perform simple actions and stave of conditions such as osteoarthritis and spinal stenosis.
According to a report released by the World Health Organisation in January 2018, falls are the second leading cause of accidental or unintentional injury deaths worldwide. It also stated that adults older than 65 years of age suffered the greatest number of fatal falls.
Hence, seniors looking to prevent their risk of falls should embed balance training into their exercise routine as it provides multiple benefits. Balance training improves your reaction time, which will help you react faster and catch yourself before you fall should you become slightly overbalanced. Furthermore, it also builds stronger bones, which means fewer breaks in the event of a fall.
Spotting A Senior-friendly Fitness Programme
If you find planning a suitable exercise routine to meet an elderly constitution to be overwhelming, you should scout around for physical instructors that have experience working with older adults.
To get a taste on what to expect from a senior-friendly fitness workout, the Silver Fitness Programme is a 4-week activity programme for seniors conducted by professional physiotherapists that primarily focus on improving muscular strength, enhancing mobility and decreasing fall risks. Currently, this programme only runs in Kuala Lumpur.
Either way, whether you choose to plan your own exercise routine or join a senior-friendly fitness programme, be sure to conduct some research and consult an experienced professional on the type of exercises that meet your fitness needs. These steps are important to conduct a safe workout and carry on an active lifestyle well into their senior years.
First Published: Smart Investor, July 2018