The Un-Workout for Retired Seniors
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you are an active senior, what’s your weekly exercise regimen?