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The Un-Workout for Retired Seniors


By +Carolyn Richardson on Mar 18, 2012 10:00 AM in Tips & Updates

Staying active in addition to regular exercise

Age alone does not define a person’s physical fitness or their ability to swim from Alcatraz Island to Fisherman’s Wharf in the San Francisco Bay (rest in peace Jack LaLanne), but there are specific concerns for seniors to consider when they workout. Not only is there the issue of injury or falls, but also health conditions that may prevent a certain level of physical activity. While your fitness level will determine what workouts you do, there are specific things retired seniors can do in addition to regular exercise to stay active.

Four Components of Senior Exercise

The National Institutes of Health suggests four types of exercise for seniors to engage in for overall health. These are: endurance exercise, strength training, stretching, and flexibility. Endurance exercises of moderate intensity such as swimming, walking, or jogging should be enjoyed at least 150 minutes a week. Strength training should be planned an additional 2 or more days a week that works all major muscle groups including the legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms. Stretching and flexibility exercises can be done around  regular daily activities.

Stiff Joints

As you age, joints may be more stiff creating pain and limiting flexibility and mobility. While it seems like a reason not to exercise, feeling better is actually dependent on moving more. One of the contributing factors to stiff joints is the practice of sitting for longer periods. Alpa Patel, an American Cancer Society epidemiologist, tracked 123,000 Americans between 1992 and 2006. Men who spent spent six hours or more per day of their leisure time sitting had an overall death rate about 20 percent higher than the men who sat for three hours or less. The death rate for women who sat for more than six hours a day was about 40 percent higher. One way to stave off excessive sitting is to move at least every 30 minutes at least 8 hours out of your day. This movement is over and above any physical activity you may already have planned. Practice standing up and sitting down on a chair or alternate high knees with arm raises for as little 5 minutes each hour. That will help keep your circulation going and improve stiffness.

Losing Balance

If strength training is not a part of your regular exercise routine, your balance could also suffer. Incorporating daily balance strength challenges as part of regular household duties could help you improve your balance. In between washing dishes, use the counter as support as you alternate standing on one foot and extending your leg to each side. Cleaning windows with slow arm strokes, followed by fast ones can also help improve strength and balance. Another way to improve balance is by sweeping or vacuuming with more vigorous movements. Last, enjoy the outside of your house. Whether you walk around the perimeter of your house or mow the lawn, find new simple chores that will keep you moving well into your retirement.

Play

Take a detour from the gym and enjoy physical activity without the stopwatch or treadmill. At least weekly, take on a new activity that peaks your interest and gets you moving. People watch by walking around an indoor mall, zoo, or museum. You might also take on a less intense regimen of volleyball, yoga, Tai-chi, or tennis. For the kid in you, try childhood games such as kickball, hide and seek and red light green light on a smaller scale. Golf, nature hikes, gardening, painting outdoors, and even photography can all take you to new places and keep you active.


Your thoughts…

If you are an active senior, what’s your weekly exercise regimen?



Comments


This is well meaning but demeaning.  This suggests that senior people (and we ARE still people) limit themselves to such lively pursuits as dishwashing or playing hide and seek.  Was this written by a twenty-something person?   If, as some propaganda states, 60 is the new 40 or 75 is the new 50, why should we limit  ourselves to inane and boring activities.  Not only do they fail to challenge us physically but even worse, they fail to challenge us intellectually, thus boring us to death.  Life is full of treasures and adventures.  Now that we're retired, let's explore them all.



Original Post by: audreyi

This is well meaning but demeaning.  This suggests that senior people (and we ARE still people) limit themselves to such lively pursuits as dishwashing or playing hide and seek.  Was this written by a twenty-something person?   If, as some propaganda states, 60 is the new 40 or 75 is the new 50, why should we limit  ourselves to inane and boring activities.  Not only do they fail to challenge us physically but even worse, they fail to challenge us intellectually, thus boring us to death.  Life is full of treasures and adventures.  Now that we're retired, let's explore them all.


I don't think this article speaks to active seniors, obviously. My 50ish friends PARENTS who are in their 80s and 90s are another group who tend to sit all day, eat nothing but packaged foods (because they see no point in cooking for themselves) and they are the ones who tend to have balance and endurance issues. My 86 year old father went from a cane, to a walker, to a wheelchair, but could not see the point of joining in with his friends for an exercise session when he could be sitting watching reruns of Columbo instead! I think this is more the focus group for this article, but it's a good idea to keep these things in mind as we approach that age as well.



In the year before she passed away, my 94 year old mother exercised daily, with assistance and appropriate to her needs, to help her regain mobility after a hospitalization. The results were amazing. This article is a good reminder for all of us that our bodies thrive on exercise and movement, no matter what our age. Thanks, Carolyn.



I do not think this article is at all demeaning to seniors.  On the contrary. I am an active senior who attends a fitness gym three or four times a week.  There, I witness seniors who have no clue on how to excersise correctly.  Worse are the so called fitness instructors who treat seniors the same as they would young fit athletes.  I fully agree with the author who suggets taking a detour from the gym "  Seniors should learn more about correct stretching and balance.  I think it is an excellent article.



at 70, i do exercising everyday five days a week for a minimum of 45 minutes. i do 5 yoga/stretching exercises 2 body weight exercises, the plank, and 2 leg kick stretching exercises. i then go to interval training with kettlebells, dumbells and jakes tower doing an 18 exercise circuit working every muscle group. i do a set of exercises for 2 minutes, rest 15 to 30 seconds before moving on to the next set until all 18 exercises in the circuit are completed, then i do the yoga/stretching exercise once again before calling it a workout. i have had 1 knee and 1 hip replacement, back surgery and i suffer from spinal stenosis. if i did not exercise i would be in a world of hurt.



At 71, I now am still wondering when I'll become a senior. Seems to me I'll keep on doing things until i'm incapable, but I'll keep on trying. Do find it difficult to keep up with youngsters though - especially students, they do seem to walk at a very brisk pace these days.



I like the article. It's a reminder for us to get off our butts and start moving more.

I will be 63 yrs old this year. I'm in aquafit, aerobics and do the gym plus going for walks. Sometimes I do slack off and need a kick in the butt to get me going again like a reminder from this article.

Thanks! Laughing 



I guess I qualify as a "senior" now that I'm 63, although I despise that term.  To me a "senior" is a 12th grader.  But I read the article anyway, despite the annoying standard photo of happy "seniors" frolicking aimlessly in a mythical "park."  I held my breath, hoping against hope for the part in these articles that never comes:  The specifics to the strength training and stretching advise that is always given but never described.  I guess I have to drive around looking for a park that has happy frolicking seniors. Yes, I actually did contact our city's Parks and Rec department to ask if they offered fitness classes for age over 50, but they do not. I would be allowed into the regular classes for age 18+, but I refuse to intrude on young peoples activities.



to me a senior is liken to an executive with very good advisory skills.



Im my case increased activity and workouts proved to be determinable.  I realized when I retired I had more time to visit the gym (I have been in the gym for twenty years), more time doing yard work and playing golf sometimes 3 times a week rather than once a month.  I have never had back issues and now I suffer with from a bulging disc.  

Now my gym time is devoted to the treadmill and back exercises.  I play limited golf with constant pain (the bulge has created sciatic pain in my right leg) and as for yard work, no more carrying large buckets of water from my rain barrels. I always enjoyed doing this to burn more calories. 😓



Original Post by: lynneeve

I guess I qualify as a "senior" now that I'm 63, although I despise that term.  To me a "senior" is a 12th grader.  But I read the article anyway, despite the annoying standard photo of happy "seniors" frolicking aimlessly in a mythical "park."  I held my breath, hoping against hope for the part in these articles that never comes:  The specifics to the strength training and stretching advise that is always given but never described.  I guess I have to drive around looking for a park that has happy frolicking seniors. Yes, I actually did contact our city's Parks and Rec department to ask if they offered fitness classes for age over 50, but they do not. I would be allowed into the regular classes for age 18+, but I refuse to intrude on young peoples activities.


Hi Lynneeve, thanks for your comment. Here are a few sources for specific strength exercises as well as guidelines for strength training for seniors. Hope this helps!

http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/growingstronger/index.ht ml

http://exercise.about.com/od/exerciseforseniors/a/Strength-T raining-Guidelines-For-Seniors.htm

http://exercise.about.com/cs/exerciseworkouts/l/blseniorwkou t.htm



Original Post by: lynneeve

I guess I qualify as a "senior" now that I'm 63, although I despise that term.  To me a "senior" is a 12th grader.  But I read the article anyway, despite the annoying standard photo of happy "seniors" frolicking aimlessly in a mythical "park."  I held my breath, hoping against hope for the part in these articles that never comes:  The specifics to the strength training and stretching advise that is always given but never described.  I guess I have to drive around looking for a park that has happy frolicking seniors. Yes, I actually did contact our city's Parks and Rec department to ask if they offered fitness classes for age over 50, but they do not. I would be allowed into the regular classes for age 18+, but I refuse to intrude on young peoples activities.


And here are specific stretching exercises along with a link to guidelines for stretching for seniors. Enjoy!

http://seniorliving.about.com/od/basicexerciseseries/ss/stre tchexercise.htm

http://exercise.about.com/od/yogapilatesflexibility/l/blseni orstretch.htm



I have had back trouble for a year now.  Am going to a surgeon on March 30.  I cannot exercise right now.  Tried my treadmill but the pain is pretty bad.  I will continue to count calories right now (have just started) have lost 5 lbs.  Many seniors have this problem.  Hope to get with an exercise soon.  love walking, loving the treadmill.  With the steriod shots and pain have not been able to do much.  Have started my diet and am happy.  I feel I am on the right track.

I do not think this article is demeaning.  Many seniors have the capability to exercise everyday.  A lot of us don't right now.  Do not get so defensive.



I appreciate the article but would like specific references to what to expect from an aging body.  I like to exercise with people of all ages. When talking about "seniors," it seems to  refer to age.  Age is not the issue. What matters is the level of cognitive ability and physical state of health.  I don't want to be with frail elderly.  Nor do I want to be with people who are aiming for some professional level of fitness. Where I excercise, there are times when I wish the instructors had additional training in age related issues - knees, balance, foot problems.  I do NIA, Pilates, yard work, housework.  I am interested in finding out more about Tai Chi.



this article is not demeaning ...if it does not apply to you be grateful and move on!

I'm 63, moved from 2-story house in Boston to rural NC 1-story house in 2005; and just not going up & down stairs has let my arthritis almost destroy both knees, I will probably have one knee replaced later this year and the other a few months after ... I just completed the 6th week in 8-week Exercise for Arthritis class and I am getting some flexibility back ... so for someone like me, this article provided good ideas and reminders!



ANY exercise is good, but dancing is better. Better, yet, Argentine Tango is not only good exercise for the body, but also for the brain. If you like to travel, it is danced all over the world. You can go to classes without a partner, and there you will find a friendly community of all ages.

 



shesmalls do as much as you can. i have had i hip replacement, 1 knee replacement and back surgery. i have spinal stenosis. i have to exercise or it's worse. so keep doing what you can. at 70 i still work out 45 minutes a day.



Thank you regardless of what many have said senior need to exercise differently then their younger counterparts. 



Exercise as best you can ... AND keep the weight off! We can help with "RealW8" - getting you back to your Real weight naturally ... simply curb your cravings for Carbs and Sugars ... for the Health of it!

Hugh ... hughlove@shaw.ca



I don't think this article is demeaning at all. If you take it as demeaning, then maybe it isn't aimed at you.  You should be happy you are still able to do a lot of physical activity.  I think it is giving people, who feel they can't (whether it be pain, or lack of funds to) attend a gym or do strenuous activies, other fun activities that still keeps them active.  I know there are a lot of seniors out there who run marathons and such in their 70s and older and, obviously, not everyone can do that - even some 'young' people can't do it.  Any alternative that works for someone is a good alternative and we should be happy people care enough to write an article like this as a reminder that, even if we aren't athletes, we can still get out and get busy.



Original Post by: carolyn_r

Original Post by: lynneeve

I guess I qualify as a "senior" now that I'm 63, although I despise that term.  To me a "senior" is a 12th grader.  But I read the article anyway, despite the annoying standard photo of happy "seniors" frolicking aimlessly in a mythical "park."  I held my breath, hoping against hope for the part in these articles that never comes:  The specifics to the strength training and stretching advise that is always given but never described.  I guess I have to drive around looking for a park that has happy frolicking seniors. Yes, I actually did contact our city's Parks and Rec department to ask if they offered fitness classes for age over 50, but they do not. I would be allowed into the regular classes for age 18+, but I refuse to intrude on young peoples activities.


And here are specific stretching exercises along with a link to guidelines for stretching for seniors. Enjoy!

http://seniorliving.about.com/od/basicexerciseseries/ss/stre tchexercise.htm

http://exercise.about.com/od/yogapilatesflexibility/l/blseni orstretch.htm


Thanks a million carolyn_r for your valuable links. This is what many seniors are looking for.



I am 70 and stay active. 2 yoga classes a week, walking, biking, golf ,dancing and at home weight lifting--and try to keep my weight according to my build and height. I feel better than when I was younger, no body pain, and I can do all that I want without tiring. For me, the key has been to have the time to finally do things for me and my body. All articles that help people of all ages see that activity will help them are good. Call us Senior, but it doesn't deter us from activity.


Original Post by: lynneeve

I guess I qualify as a "senior" now that I'm 63, although I despise that term.  To me a "senior" is a 12th grader.  But I read the article anyway, despite the annoying standard photo of happy "seniors" frolicking aimlessly in a mythical "park."  I held my breath, hoping against hope for the part in these articles that never comes:  The specifics to the strength training and stretching advise that is always given but never described.  I guess I have to drive around looking for a park that has happy frolicking seniors. Yes, I actually did contact our city's Parks and Rec department to ask if they offered fitness classes for age over 50, but they do not. I would be allowed into the regular classes for age 18+, but I refuse to intrude on young peoples activities.


 Oh, lynneeve, I wish you would join the regular fitness classes offered!  You would not be intruding at all, and you would be setting a wonderful example to the "young people" - not only showing them that older people are still people, but also that they can stay active all throughout their lives!  When I took Parks and Rec classes the students were all ages, shapes and sizes and we had FUN together!



my wife and i used to belong to the gym, which was an indoor plunge too, but the owners decided to no longer remain open year around, so we set up in our home. we had went to the gym for 16 years and loved it. i never felt out of place with the young, middle age, or any people older than us. we all enjoyed each other and the atmosphere. we miss it and the companionship of all the people that used to go. so lynneeve i suggest you try it, you may just find out you like it.



I think t.v. pushes too many hard core exercise programs (for younger people).  I have found that by going to Curves, which is easy, at least twice to three times a week, keeps me moving.  Have had a number of falls in the past which caused severe pain... Have had one knee replaced.  Shoulder with torn rotator cuff is next to be fixed...however I keep trying to work the arm and shoulder to keep it fairly flexible.  I am 80.  Work crossword puzzles and log into the computer every day to keep mind working.  Seniors are no longer interested in "tight abs", baring their midriffs, how many push ups they can do, and huge muscles...Just want to be as pain free as possible, and as flexible as possible.



Carolyn, thank you for the links on the specifics I asked for. I will pursue those.  I apologize for the original negativity -- it was a visceral reaction to the stock photo of stereotypical cute senior citizens romping in a park like carefree toddlers that always sets me off for reasons I won't go into here. 

Amryk, I do not think it is good advice to over-50 year olds to join serious fitness classes intended for teens and young adults. There are major physical differences in the age groups that need attention. I attended an 0ver-50 class in the city I lived in before moving here, and the instructor was specifically trained in the cardiovascular, muscular, and skeletal systems of older adults. It was a very serious and difficult, challenging class, and I miss it very much. It may sound selfish, but I get so little time to myself that I won't spend time and money on an exercise class unless it is for "me."  I want it to by my personal time. I do plenty for charity already, and I'm around kids everywhere  -- I would like some time for myself with people I have more in common with, for a couple hours a week, anyway. What I abhor would be to be considered "cute," or any example of a typical senior citizen, or any learning specimen for the grandkids -- that is exactly what the initial poster meant by the word "demeaning."



I see your point lynneeve.  I've just never had that experience.  I'm over 50 and the classes I signed up for aren't hard-core.  The instructor is over 50, too.  Maybe it just depends on the particular class/instructor.  Many times I've felt more fit than some of the younger folks in the class! :)



I am 63.  I have started exercising and do not have an athletic background.  I swim with a Master's team (for adults of all ages) 4 or more times per week.  I do weight lifting twice a week, one day for one hour with my program, one day with a class, then I spend bike or rollerblade at least every weekend.  I rode a bike as a kid, but I have never gone rollerblading until this fall.  When I get good enough to keep up with the bike and the rollerblading, then maybe I'll try something else.  I do think it is good to try something out of the gym just for fun, like riding a bike or going skating or rollerblading or something.  Kinda funny when the teenagers or your adult kids can't keep up, but my kids are now getting to where I can't keep up at times.  



I am only 46 and found this article to be motivating.  I know many people my age and younger who are not exercising as they should.  This is a good study for beginners as well as seniors.  Thank you for the encouragement.



I am 72.  I exercise doing water aerobics four times a week.  I feel great while doing the exercise and afterwards.  I recommend that everyone think about new exercises they can do.



What I particularly like about the article is the true statement that lack of exercising can cause MORE joint pain, I have found this to be true in my life and this last january have started to exercise more, and I am finding if I don't exercise I am in much more pain.  This is from someone who really does not enjoy exercising for exercising sake.  I try to find fun things to do(wii) that will keep me moving and off the couch.  I work a seven day work week so I just get plain exhausted and really need to force myself to get up towards the end of the week.  But no matter how my body feels, I feel young at heart, such a surprise to know this as I get older, but a welcome surprise.



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