Updated: Mar 26, 2022
Today's seniors are living longer than ever - thanks in part to astonishing medical advances, and also to the application of evidence-based research that helps design therapeutic solutions to better manage age-related problems and issues.
While living longer is wonderful, it is also important to live well: to enjoy a full and functional lifestyle and high quality of life.
One of the biggest impediments to that goal is immobility caused by loss of muscle strength, flexibility, balance, and/or depth perception. Falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries, and, according to the Centres for Disease Control (CDC), one in every three adults over the age of 65 falls.
Staying active is a crucial piece of the puzzle when it comes to avoiding those accidents and optimizing your health and wellness.
Research shows there are numerous benefits to quality exercise for seniors, including enhanced strength and mobility, better bone and muscle health, and reduced fall risk, as well as reducing the chances of having a stroke and delaying the onset of diabetes.
The right combination of weight-bearing and high-intensity resistance training can increase bone mass, bone size, and bone microarchitecture, slowing the bone mineral density loss that begins after the age of 40 and heightens the chances of osteoporotic fractures.
It is important to note that no other therapeutic intervention has been shown to have this kind of simultaneous and beneficial multi-system impact.
The most beneficial exercise programs for seniors are those that target are-related weaknesses by improving strength, balance flexibility, and stability.
The types of exercises that are supported by cutting-edge research as being most effective in building balance and strength include dynamic balance exercises (such as standing on one foot, using your arms to catch something, and reaching above the head to "clean a window").
A general exercise prescription includes three to five weekly sessions of 30-60 minutes of combined cardio and resistance training with a strength training component.
Balance training requires just 5-10 minutes of work a day, with both static exercises (standing and balancing in various positions, on different legs, and with your eyes both open and closed) and dynamic exercises (adding bends, reaches, and body movements to your balances).
Walking /treadmill work is still the best aerobic/cardio exercise, and water exercise that adds resistance is also beneficial.
Resistance and intensity are acritically important factors when it comes to getting the most out of your workouts. Moderate to high-intensity exercise is required to manifest the kind of significant physiological change that can help you achieve and maintain lasting and impactful results.
In terms of time investment, understand that the American College of Sports Medicine recommends that you spend at least 150 minutes of exercise per week and that lasting physical changes will not be seen until after at least 50 hours of exercise.
Finally, listen to your body: avoid anything that causes excessive pain, and avoid high impact loading that involves twisting, bending or compression of the spine.
Be sure to supplement your strength and cardio training with balancing exercises, and provide 48 hours of rest to each muscle exercised.
Consult with a trained geriatric therapist for additional advice on program design, exercise selection, proper techniques, and personalized support.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Polly Swingle possesses more than 20 years of experience. She is a Project walk certified clinician in the practice of LSVT BIG-Therapy for individuals with Parkinson's disease, a certified Exercise Experts for Aging Adults, and a Geriatric Certified Specialist.