Healthy Aging: Endurance Exercises for Seniors
In our last post we reviewed exercise safety tips to help avoid injury, so now it’s time to start taking a look at specific exercises seniors can perform to keep their body in motion.
Exercises tend to fall into four main categories: endurance, balance, strength and flexibility. Many exercises will fit into several categories so you get more “bang for your effort”. For example, a balance exercise such as Tai Chi also helps improve your flexibility. The trick is to find exercises that you can physically do (and enjoy) that fit into all four categories and alternate between them.
Today we are going to explore endurance (or aerobic) exercises that increase your breathing and heart rate for an extended period of time. Endurance exercises can be challenging if you have not regularly been active in some time so it is best to start gradually by doing endurance exercises for 5 or 10 minutes at a time a few days a week. The ideal goal is to build up to 150 minutes (2 ½ hours) per week.
Examples of endurance exercises for seniors include:
- brisk walking or jogging
*trick: Buy an inexpensive step counter (pedometer) to track your progress. Step counters are usually worn on a belt and track the number of steps you take by detecting the movement in your hips. See how many steps you are taking per day and set goals to increase your steps. Somewhere between 8,000 and 10,000 steps per day is a typical recommended target.
- bicycling or cycling on a stationary bike
*trick: If you are unable to use a standard or stationary bicycle due to mobility or strength issues with your legs try a handcycle. Handcycles offer a great work out for your arms, shoulders and back and get your breathing and heart rate up. You can even get tabletop handcycles for use inside your home.
- swimming or water aerobics
*tip: Water-based exercises are a great option for people with arthritis or those recovering from painful surgeries. Water buoyancy reduces the “weight” of a person by 90% thus reducing the burden on stress-bearing joints and muscles.
*tip: Dancing also helps improve balance and increase flexibility. Dancing also benefits your mind since it’s a great way to get out and socialize with other people. Check with your local senior center, recreation center or dance studio to see if they offer dance classes. They may even offer free or low-cost classes specifically designed for seniors.
- sports (basketball, tennis, racquetball, etc.)
*tip: Like dancing, playing sports is a great way to get out and socialize with other people. Check with your recreation center to see if they offer any senior sports leagues or just grab a friend for a friendly game.