Orthopaedic Specialists of Connecticut
Exercise is important at any age, and many doctors and researchers say that it is especially important for older adults to stay active. While people tend to lose muscle tone and flexibility over time, there are plenty of ways to ease into a fitness routine to regain strength and mobility.Before you contemplate integrating a fitness routine into your busy schedule, consider some of the benefits of exercise:
- Exercise is a natural mood-booster and a great way to increase energy.
- Exercise has been shown to prevent or delay diseases in older adults such as heart disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis.
- Staying active can improve cognitive function.
- Many exercises improve balance, which can prevent falls.
Of course, if you have always been active and physically fit, there is no need to stop once the aging process sets in. Even those who develop chronic illnesses can exercise with permission and advice from their doctor.
If you are currently inactive but you are thinking of beginning an exercise routine, you will need some help along the way. Here is some advice for when you decide to make the lifestyle change.
There are four types of exercise, and depending on what your goals are (lose weight, improve balance, gain flexibility, etc.), you should consider each.
- Endurance exercise will increase your heart and breathing rates, improving your heart and lung health, as well as circulation. Depending on your current ability, a gentle walk or an hour of yard work could be enough to see a benefit. If you want to increase your activity level, jogging, dancing, or playing a sport like tennis are great ways to build endurance. Swimming is a low-impact exercise that is perfect for those looking to improve circulation but may have issues with their joints.
- Strength exercise improves muscle tone. Ease into a strength-building routine by using resistance bands. For those who need more of a challenge, using free weights or performing bodyweight exercises (sit-ups, push-ups, etc.) may be a good next step.
- Balance exercise helps prevent falls and can also build strength. Many older adults take gentle yoga or tai chi classes. At home, you can stand on one foot or practice walking heel-to-toe to increase your balance and improve strength, too.
- Flexibility exercise is important for older adults, as it helps increase mobility, stretches muscles, and can help prevent injury long term. Again, yoga is a wonderful way to check several exercise “boxes”, including flexibility. Stretching can be done at a gym or at home, as long as you remember not to push your muscles past their limits. Stretching should be relaxing, never painful.
Generally, older adults over 65 years of age should aim to get 2.5 hours of exercise a week, which averages about 30 minutes on most days. Unless your doctor recommends otherwise, consider working in exercises that cover each of these areas – endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility – for optimum results. For example, if you are just starting, stagger a few morning walks, a few exercises incorporating resistance bands, gentle yoga sessions, and some home stretching sessions throughout the week.
If you are concerned about staying motivated, start small. Make some easy lifestyle changes to begin with. For example, park farther away from your destination so that you have to walk a bit farther, do some light exercises while you watch your favorite TV show, or opt to take the stairs over the elevator. Take your time, challenge yourself a little, and make moves towards a daily routine.
Exercising with friends can make the whole process more fun and motivating. Find a friend who would also like to incorporate exercise into their daily routine, or sign up to try a gentle yoga, tai chi, or stretching class with people you know. Gathering friends together to take a hike or to commit to a weekly morning walk may help pass the time and help you see how enjoyable exercise can be.
Of course, it is always important to check with your doctor before you begin any sort of exercise routine, especially if you’ve been very inactive or if you have ever experienced symptoms such as dizziness, chest pain, joint swelling, discomfort, or if you are dealing with an illness, recovering from surgery, or if you’ve ever had a blood clot or a hernia.
The Orthopaedic Specialists of Connecticut team is committed to providing you with the best orthopedic care – but we also love to see our patients become healthier, stronger, and more flexible. If you are dealing with an orthopedic issue, or if you run into problems in the future, our caring physicians and staff offer state-of-the-art treatment and care to help you get back to living your best life. Call us to schedule an appointment: 203-775-6205.