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The Best Exercises for Older Adults
| Date Posted: 5/15/2023
PINEHURST, N.C. -- As you get older, it’s as important as ever to be physically active. Regular exercise helps you maintain your independence and stay healthier. It makes it possible for you to do more and live in less pain. But should older adults do the same types of exercise as people who are younger?
When it comes to the best exercises for older adults, the key is to find activities you want to do and that you will do consistently, according to Tim Smith, the clinical program manager for FirstHealth Exercise is Medicine.
“Be sure to think about the things you enjoy doing, because if you aren’t having a good time first and foremost, it may be hard to exercise multiple times a week,” Smith said. “If you still enjoy activities, you did when you were younger, there’s no reason not to do them as long as you are able.”
Smith says some folks may need to tweak their plans to avoid injury or work in new movements to keep things fresh and interesting. Trying to decide what type of exercise to do? Here are some good choices for older adults.
It’s recommended that older adults get at least 2 ½ hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week. That equates to 30 minutes of exercise 5 days a week. Some of the best choices for older adults include walking, cycling, dancing, swimming and using an elliptical trainer. These are low-impact activities that get the heart pumping and the lungs working harder.
Strength Training Exercises
In addition to aerobic exercise, it’s also important for seniors to do exercise that strengthens muscles. As we age, muscle and bone mass diminishes naturally, but regular strength training helps keep the body as strong as possible. This can be accomplished by doing exercises that use light free weights, resistance bands or even your own body weight.
Being able to move your body through its full range of motion gets harder to do as you get older. That’s why it’s important to incorporate activities that improve flexibility into your exercise routine. Exercises focused on improving flexibility will help you maintain your mobility and also help improve balance. Consider doing gentle stretches each day. Yoga or Tai Chi are also good options and many older adults enjoy the class aspect of these activities.
One of the most common causes of serious injury in older adults is falls. Performing exercises that help improve your balance can minimize your risk of falling. Many of the exercises that improve flexibility, such as yoga and Tai Chi, also help improve your balance. Strengthening the muscles in your hips and legs also reduces your risk of falls.
If you are new to exercise, have recently been injured or have physical limitations or health conditions, consider working with a physical therapist or personal trainer at first. He or she can help guide you toward the type of exercises that will be best for you and will teach you how to do them safely and effectively.
Group classes geared to older adults are another good option because they provide guidance, support and camaraderie while you exercise. There are even exercise classes that can be done while sitting in a chair.
If you are looking for a place to up your fitness game, FirstHealth Fitness is ready to help. Six medically based fitness centers in the Sandhills include state-of-the-art equipment and are staffed by college-educated trainers. FirstHealth Fitness also offers group exercise classes and massage therapy. For more information, visit our website.