When it comes to safe and effective workouts, perhaps no group can benefit more than seniors. But a wide range of factors, including fitness level, strength, mobility, balance and others can impact what’s safe and effective. An 85 year-old California woman just completed the Boston Marathon this year, but a lot of people half her age have a hard time getting off the sofa.
The point is that for seniors there isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” workout regimen. Some seniors are incredibly fit and active, and others not so much, due to health issues and injuries. Regardless of your fitness level, there are several rules of thumb when considering various exercises.
- Keep it low-impact: I know we just mentioned a marathon. but running takes a toll on your body… up to 2,000 strides per mile, each inflicting 3 to 4 times your body weight, per stride.
- Take care of your back: Exercises like leg presses, upright rows, dead lifts, and even stomach crunches can strain your back and keep you from doing any exercise at all.
- Remember you’re stiff: If you’re a senior you know how tight, stiff, and achy your joints and muscles can get. Be sure and stretch first and avoid high intensity workouts, like plyometrics.
- Expand your mind: Just because your grandfather lifted rocks to stay fit doesn’t mean it’s good for you. New technologies can change the way you exercise… for the better.
Here are five workouts to consider, so you can exercise safely and effectively, whether you’re an active senior, need assistance in your daily routine, or rehabilitating from an injury or illness.
The pool is ideal for exercising because water provides resistance without much impact. Here are a few you can do that require no equipment.
- Flutter kicks: With both hands on the side of the pool, float your body up and start kicking. Get your heart rate up and keep going for 60 seconds. Slow down if you need a rest.
- Leg Swings: With one hand on the side of the pool raise one leg forward and hold for a few seconds. Then, swing it back behind and hold for a few seconds. Repeat with the other leg.
- Arm Circles: In neck deep water, stand with one foot out in front and one foot behind for balance. Lift your arms sideways, elbows straight, and palms down. Move your arms in small circular pattern for several seconds, then spin the other direction for several seconds.
- Walk / March: Just walking in water is great exercise, but if you step high and move your arms in a marching motion, it’s even better. Go until you are out of breath.
Yoga is something you can do in a class or on your own once you know a few positions and combinations of moves. Yoga will improve your strength, balance, and circulation, while increasing flexibility and mobility. You can even do yoga in a chair!
The benefits of walking focus on your heart health, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, and reducing the risk of heart disease. Try to get your heart rate up, but don’t get out of breath. Wear comfortable shoes and clothes and stay hydrated. A 20-minute walk just three times a week will yield results.
Your body is its own natural gym! Just using your body’s weight as resistance can benefit your overall health in many ways. Here are some exercises you can do right now:
- Squats: Stand up straight with your feet should width apart. Slowly lowery your body, keeping your head facing forward and your back straight (don’t bend over). Raise your arms out in front of you as your body lowers. Go as low as you can comfortably and hold it for 5 seconds. Raise back up into standing position.
- Toe Stand: Holding the back of a chair for balance, raise your body up on your tippy toes. Hold it for 5 seconds, and lower yourself back down.
- Leg Raises: Using the chair for balance, raise one leg out 45 degrees behind your body and hold it. Slowly swing it out in front of you at the same 45-degree angle. Hold it for a few seconds. Repeat with your other leg.
- Push-ups: If you can do a push-up, that’s fantastic. If it’s too much to do a full push up, try doing them on your knees rather than feet. Or you can do wall push-ups (just make sure you’re not too far away from the wall!)
- Arm raises: Stand up straight and simply raise your arms over your head. Hold your arms up and stretch them nice and good. Try holding them up for 20 seconds. It’s not easy, is it!
In a nutshell, isometrics is about pushing muscle groups against each other or against a fixed object. Isometrics can be done anywhere, anytime. You can do isometric exercises standing up, sitting down, even lying down. What’s great is that you get all the benefits of every exercise mentioned above. In fact, many of the exercises above are, in fact, isometric. Anytime you hold a muscle group in a fixed position, it’s isometrics. Here are a few more you can try:
- Plank: If you can get into a push-up position, whether it’s on your toes, knees or against the wall, all you do is simply hold that position for 10 seconds. Lower yourself halfway to the ground or wall and hold for another 10 seconds. You can do planks on your elbows too.
- Stomach crunch: Not your traditional crunch which can be bad for your back, you can do this standing, sitting, or lying down. All you do is contract your abdominal muscles for 10 seconds. Do it 10 times.
- Bicep “curls”: Hold your right hand out in front of you, palm up, bent at the elbow. Place your other hand on top of it and grip your hands together. Try pushing your right hand up and using your left hand to resist it. Then, try pulling your right hand down using your left hand to resist it. Switch to your left side and repeat. You can do these arm resistance exercises in a variety of positions. It’s all about using your own muscle groups against the others!
There are countless isometric exercises you can do, regardless of how healthy or mobile you are. You can get even more out of an isometric workout using the Activ5 fitness device, which pairs with a smartphone app. It coaches you through over a 100 gym-based exercises, keeps track of your progress, and keeps you motived.
Regardless of what kind of fitness routine you choose, just make sure you choose something. Smart, safe, and effective exercise is key to both physical and mental wellness, especially for seniors.
Please consult your doctor before beginning any fitness routine. Now get up and get moving!