Forget childhood obesity. Children are not the most inactive group of North Americans. Studies show that adults over sixty-five spend ten or more hours a day sitting or lying down. They are the most sedentary age group.
Inactivity comes with a cost both physical and mental. Inactive seniors have higher incidences of falls, obesity, heart disease, dementia, Alzheimer’s and early death compared to their more active counterparts.
Staying active often means staying healthy and maintaining independence.
Keeping active is an excellent way to combat the aging process. There are a lot of misconceptions floating around out there about aging and exercise. Here are some examples.
Myths about Aging
Myth 1: I’m getting old. No sense fighting nature.
Exercise that is age and fitness-appropriate and strength training activities will make you look and feel younger longer. Regular physical activity decreases the risk of such things as: Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, heart disease, certain cancers, and obesity-related diseases like type 2 diabetes and hypertension.
Myth 2: Older people should rest and conserve their energy.
Research shows that sedentary people over 50 are unhealthy. Inactivity causes seniors to lose their ability to be independent.
Myth 3: If I exercise I increase my risk of falling.
Exercise builds strength and stamina and prevents bone density decrease. It also improves balance. Exercise actually reduces your risk of falls.
Myth 4: Too late to start exercising now!
It’s never too late to start. But, begin with gentle, short exercise and work up gradually. Good beginnings: short walk, gentle swim, yoga for seniors, aqua-robics for seniors, Tai Chi and Qi Gong.
Myth 5: I’m disabled.
Not a legitimate excuse! Look into chair exercises like: lifting light weights, stretches, chair aerobics, arm cycle or arm ergometer, and Zumba chair exercises. The idea is to increase your range of motion, improve muscle tone, and do cardiovascular exercises.
Safety Tips for Seniors
- Get your doctor’s permission before before starting an exercise program. Inquire if there are any activities you should avoid.
- Remember: your ongoing health problems affect your workouts. If you are diabetic—for example—you may need to synchronize medication, meals, and exercise
- Listen to your body. If something feels wrong scale back or try another exercise. Don’t ignore such signs as chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, disorientation or headaches.
- Baby steps. If you are new to regular exercise don’t go “all out”. Build up your exercise program gradually. Space workouts in ten-minute periods twice a day. If you’re starting a class like yoga, do one class each week.
- Don’t forget to do stretches and warm ups first and cool downs at the end.
- Keep water nearby and hydrate often.
- Develop an exercise habit. Sporadic exercise does little and shocks your body.
- Set realistic, short-term goals.
- Celebrate successes.
Senior Fun Fitness Activities
- Dance for Fun and Fitness
Regular dancing helps you lose weight, maintaining bone density, improving posture and balance, increase muscle strength, and give your cardiovascular system a good workout. Dancing has the added benefit of being fun and meeting new people. Look for Jazzercise for seniors, square dancing, and Zumba Gold classes. You might even want to sign up for ballroom or line dancing!
- Try Cycling
For most people, cycling is a safe and a great form of exercise. Be sure to see your doctor before you start. Start with short jaunts twice a day. Any good working bike will suffice. Check yard sales, police auctions, or Kijiji—or borrow a bike to start out. Wear a helmet and choose bike paths that aren’t crowded. You might even want to try a seniors’ tricycle.
- Pickleball, Anyone?
Pickleball is the brainchild of Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum. They came up with it on a 1965 ferry ride to Bainbridge Island from Seattle to amuse their kids who were bored. Amazingly, Pickleball has evolved to one of the most popular sports for seniors throughout North America. Pickleball equipment includes:
- A pickleball paddle, smaller than a tennis racquet and larger than a ping-pong paddle.
- A net
- A pickleball. The ball has holes like a wiffleball and travels at 1/3 the speed of a tennis ball making it a doable game for seniors. The ball is usually white or yellow but new brightly colored balls are gaining in popularity.