As a person ages, the loss of bone density and muscle mass makes them more likely to suffer injuries. Seniors are particularly vulnerable to fall-related injuries. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2.8 million older Americans are hospitalized each year due to a fall.
Exercising not only promotes cardiovascular health but also reduces your chances of injury from a fall or other cause. However, you’ll also want to make sure you’re exercising safely to avoid strains and sprains.
Consult with your doctor before you begin an exercise regimen. They will let you know if it is safe for you to exercise, and may be able to recommend exercises to try out.
Control your breathing during an exercise. Inhale slowly through your nose and exhale through your mouth. When lifting weights or doing resistance training, breathe in when lifting or pressing and exhale while relaxing.
Use smooth, steady movements. Jerking motions or other sharp movements during exercise can result in injury.
The National Council on Aging recommends that seniors do moderate exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week. This regimen should include muscle-strengthening exercises for two days out of the week.
Don’t try to do too much too quickly. Start at a level where you are comfortable, and work to improve your strength and stamina from there.
Seniors can easily continue running, bicycling, or other physically demanding activities to improve endurance. Activities such as raking leaves and shoveling snow can also be beneficial.
When doing strength exercises, gradually increase the resistance over time. This will help you build muscle mass.
Several simple exercises are available to improve balance and strength. These are some examples:
- Stand on one foot for about 10 seconds. Repeat this exercise 10 to 20 times for each leg. Have a chair or other sturdy item nearby to steady yourself if need be.
- Do arm curls with handheld weights or household items such as soup cans or water bottles. Hold a weight in each arm, then bring it up to your chest, pause for a second, and slowly lower it. Repeat 10 to 15 times.
- Do push-ups against a wall. Stand slightly farther than arms’ length from the wall, then lean into it, slowly lower your body toward the wall, pause for a second, and push back until your arms are straight. Repeat 10 to 15 times.
- To exercise your abdomen and thighs, do a chair stand exercise. Sit upright in a chair, extend your arms, and slowly stand up. Slowly sit back down with your arms extended. Repeat this exercise 10 to 15 times.
For more exercises, visit the GoLife program of the National Institutes for Health at goforlife.nia.nih.gov/exercises.
You should rest if you are feeling dizzy or short of breath during exercise. Some soreness after an exercise is normal, but taking an extra day off is helpful if you are feeling particularly uncomfortable.
Stretch after exercise to improve flexibility. If you feel any sharp pains, you are stretching a muscle too far. Avoid locking your joints during a stretch.
Make sure you are staying healthy in other areas as well. Problems with your vision or hearing can also increase the possibility of an injury. You should also be aware of any potential side effects of the medication you are taking.