Exercise for the ElderlyExercise for the Elderly
With another national lockdown upon us due to an increase in COVID-19 cases, getting regular exercise has become just that little bit harder for those most affected by the new restrictions – the elderly. As we age, our bodies take a little longer to repair but frequent physical activity can help accelerate the recovery process. In fact, many medical conditions can be improved through regular activity. Conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity can be better regulated through frequent exercise.
Main Benefits of Physical Activity for the Elderly
We’re all familiar with the benefits of physical activity and how it helps to lead a healthy and happy lifestyle. However, the benefits of physical activity for the elderly are even more specific and important. Here are some of health benefits:
Boosted Immune System:
A healthier, stronger body fights off infection and disease more easily.
Increased Respiratory and Cardiovascular Function:
Frequent activity involving accelerated heart rate and breathing helps to build stronger lung and heart systems which can improve the body’s efficiency when dealing with sickness.
Stronger Bones & Maintaining Bone Mass:
Long periods of inactivity will encourage the loss of bone mass and will contribute to the frequency of fractures and lack of balance. Strength training can improve bone density and reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
Improved Gastrointestinal Function:
Regular exercise promotes the efficient elimination of waste and encourages digestive health. Physical activity is helpful for those who suffer from slow digestion and constipation.
Protection Against Chronic Conditions:
Exercise can lower the risk of developing serious conditions and has been found to actually minimise some symptoms after a condition has already been developed.
Types of Exercise for Seniors
The latest exercise trends or exercise regimens that younger generations participate in are simply not suitable nor safe for older generations to undertake. Particularly if in more recent years a sedentary lifestyle has been more common. However, this does not mean effective exercises cannot be undertaken. Typically, effective workout regimens consist of the following:
Aerobic & Endurance
Spending at least 30 minutes each day elevating heart rates and speeding up breathing has been proven to improve cardiorespiratory endurance. This results in an increase in the body’s ability to deliver oxygen and nutrients around the body and significantly improve the body’s function to remove waste.
Walking, swimming, or cycling are examples of low impact endurance exercises. When performed daily, you can expect to see an improvement after a few weeks in one’s ability to perform daily activities without getting tired or feeling winded.
In addition to the aforementioned benefits, you can expect to see a boosted immune system, lower blood pressure, better blood sugar management, and increased bone and joint health.
For some, 30 minutes of sustained activity can be difficult, so perhaps opt for three ten minute sessions during the day.
Strength & Resistance Training
Through repetitive motions with some form of resistance, seniors can rebuild lost muscle mass, improve balance, and prevent the loss of bone mass. Strength training can involve the use of weights, resistance bands, or everyday household objects to increase the load on particular muscles.
Targeting different muscle groups at least once a week will significantly improve muscle retention, and increasing the volume of weekly workouts will provide the biggest benefits. Over time it is beneficial to increase the resistance by upping the weight, making the exercise harder, or increasing the rep range. Whilst this makes the exercise more difficult to undertake, it will gradually build muscle and bone mass back up.
With particular attention paid to the core muscles (those around the back and inner stomach), you will notice an improvement in balance which helps to avoid falls and the risk of bone fractures.
For those with limited mobility, strength training can be done seated. Here are some fantastic chair exercises for seniors.
Stretching & Flexibility
Stretching is a vital component to an exercise regimen, it allows the muscles to warm up before applying resistance and load onto them. It improves flexibility and reduces the risk of muscle soreness and stiffness. Stretching can also be an essential tool for mental health and serves as a time for meditation.
Activities such as yoga or pilates combine stretching and strength training using bodyweight. These activities isolate muscle groups and can encourage a full body workout which helps to reconnect the muscle groups. One of the key benefits is the improvements to the core muscles which will help to increase posture strength and balance.
With an increased posture and improved flexibility, everyday tasks such as tying shoelaces and bending down to pick something up can become easier. This act alone helps to improve independence which is essential for mental health.
Before Starting an Exercise Regimen
Consult with a physician before undertaking exercise when not used to it. They will be able to recommend exercises to reduce risk of injury. Individuals with preexisting medical conditions need to be careful with the types of exercises undertaken. It is vital to adhere to proper form to reduce the risk of injury.
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