It’s not surprising that staying fit helps you lead a healthier life, but what you might not be aware of is the extent to which even a small amount of exercise can benefit older adults. According to Physical Activity and Health, a report by the Surgeon General: “Older adults can obtain significant health benefits with a moderate amount of physical activity, preferably daily. A moderate amount of activity can be obtained in longer sessions of moderately intense activities (such as walking) or in shorter sessions of more vigorous activities (such as fast walking or stair walking).”
Health benefits of working out include strengthening heart and respiratory systems, increasing endurance, promoting mental health, and building muscles, which helps reduce the risk of falling and increases seniors’ ability to perform daily tasks.
The great news that exercise doesn’t necessarily need to be strenuous to convey these health benefits is a relief to many seniors whose days of pumping heavy iron or taking high-impact aerobics classes are in the past. If you or a loved one has been sedentary in the past, begin with short intervals (5 to 10 minutes) of moderate activity and build up to the desired amount, and be certain to check with your physician before you begin any new physical activity. Of course, too much of a good thing is not necessarily better – as we age, chances of injuries increase with higher levels of activity, so be careful not to overdo it.
Try not to use the pandemic as an excuse for giving up your exercise routine. Instead, consider it an activity to help you pass the countdown to post pandemic. Activity might be as simple as walking by yourself or with a friend or family member. If group activities help motivate you, many local senior centers are offering online classes that range from exercises that can be done while sitting in a chair, to low-impact Tai Chi or even higher-impact options.
The Stamford Senior Center, for example, hosts live Zoom classes every week with skilled instructors. There’s Stretch & Tone on Mondays at 11 a.m., Tai Chi at 10 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Chair Zumba on Tuesdays at 11 a.m., and Strength Training on Wednesdays at 11 a.m. In addition, they offer a variety of classes on their YouTube channel that you can watch at any time. Click this link to access any of them: https://www.stamfordseniorct.org/weekly-programs.
Of course, offerings vary per center, but there are healthy options available no matter where you live and what your level of desired activity. To learn more about what is happening at your local senior center, go to