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Benefits Of Exercise For Older Folks Who Want To Keep Active

Dr. Arnan Sisson, PT | August 17, 2022

Discover the benefits of exercise for elderly people who want to keep active, and learn how to safely exercise leading up to, and into your retirement.

Staying physically active is key as people get older, however, exercise for elderly people can be daunting, and while struggling with joint pain, stiffness and poor mobility it can seem like an impossible task.

We work with lots of elderly people who want to keep active leading up to, and into their retirement, and we understand the worries that you may have.

You may be scared of making past injuries that you’ve suffered with for years worse resulting in the need for surgery or becoming reliant on medication to ease pain.

You might feel embarrassed about starting exercise because you feel so unfit, and worry about what people will think of you if you joined an exercise class or joined a gym.

You could even think it’s not worth the hassle because when you have tried to exercise in the past, it’s just stressed you out, and left you feeling sore despite making no progress.

If this sounds like you, or someone you know, this blog will outline the benefits of exercise for elderly people who want to keep active and give some advice on how to exercise safely so you can feel more energy, healthier and more capable of keeping up with your friends and family during weekend activities.

Benefits Of Exercise For Elderly People Who Want To Keep Active – Reduce The Impact Of Aging And Memory Loss

A massive fear of people in old age is memory loss, and losing their mental capacity leaving them unable to take care of themselves, or living independently in their own home. A major benefit of exercise for elderly people is that the impact of aging, and memory loss is reduced and these benefits can be gained through strength training, moderate cardiovascular exercise or higher intensity interval training.

Benefits Of Exercise For Elderly People Who Want To Keep Active – A Lower Fall Risk

Another worry for elderly people is that they fall and injure themselves.

A common injury during a fall is to the hip, knee or ankle and this can not only create physical damage to the muscles, bones and joints, but if this happens to you it can really wreck your confidence.

After a fall, it’s understandably very common for elderly people to avoid activities that could result in another fall, however this often leads to becoming more and more inactive, which reduces strength and balance further and from a social and psychological impact, it can lead to isolation.

Benefits Of Exercise For Elderly People Who Want To Keep Active – Reduce Belly Fat

Exercise, and in particular, interval training could help tackle the problem of central obesity (commonly known as ‘belly fat’) in elderly people.

As we age, fat distribution can shift, with more fat settling in the belly region which leaves us with a heightened risk for heart disease than general obesity, and also feeling less attractive and confident.

Benefits Of Exercise For Elderly People Who Want To Keep Active – Socializing

Elderly people may enjoy the social aspect that can come from joining a local health club or gym. Often, there will be people of similar ages and who share the goal of becoming more active and healthier who can become friends, or workout buddies. In some locations, there may be certain classes that are tailored towards those with particular injuries or age groups (such as Pilates for over 50s, or aquaerobics which is a great low impact form of exercise for those with injuries).

Benefits Of Exercise For Elderly People Who Want To Keep Active – Enjoyment

Elderly people who choose to join a health club or gym will find that they have access to a wide range of equipment that can make exercise more varied and enjoyable. A big obstacle for lots of patients who want to keep active, but can’t get into exercise, is that they don’t enjoy what they are doing.

However, when asked, they do the exact same thing every time they exercise (such as go on an exercise bike), which naturally will become boring over time. By changing your workouts, you are able to keep them entertaining and if you enjoy what you are doing, you are far more likely to stick to it.

Another fantastic way for elderly people to exercise is to find a sport that they enjoy. Even though this isn’t what some people may think of as traditional exercise (such as running on a treadmill), it still gives your body a workout and can help you keep active in old age. A popular sport for elderly people is pickleball or golf and can be a great way to make new friends, and stay fit and healthy in retirement.

Is It Safe For Elderly People To Exercise?

In 99.9% of cases, there is always some form of exercise that can be given which can help people become more healthier, fitter and reduce the risk of falls in later life. Even if you’ve had a hip or knee replacement, suffered for decades with recurring sciatica or even have physical disabilities, exercise can be tailored to your level.

For example, there are a plethora of exercises that can be performed with the help of chairs for extra stability (including chair yoga) and various strength, cardiovascular, and balance-enhancing exercises that can be done seated that can improve fitness while keeping injury rates low.

How Often Should Elderly People Exercise?

As you age, you might have noticed that it takes you a lot longer to recover from exercise, and little injuries can take longer to heal.

Therefore, it’s generally a good idea for elderly people to exercise little and often, as opposed to doing big bouts of exercise in one go. This will enable your body to recover, rather than leaving you with sore muscles and stiff joints for days after you exercise.

We also recommend elderly people to gradually increase the amount of exercise they do over time. This is very important to avoid getting injuries.

So if you don’t exercise at all, try to exercise for a short amount of time, twice a week to start with – don’t jump straight in with trying to exercise an hour a day, every day of the week. Over time, you can certainly build up to more exercise, and our physical therapists can ensure that your body is recovering quickly through massage, and you are able to get stronger with a tailored exercise plan even if you’ve struggled with aches and pains for long parts of your earlier life.

The Best Exercises For Elderly People Who Want To Keep Active

The type of exercises for elderly people we would recommend varies greatly on each individuals’ situation, goals and preferences.

However, as a general rule, and what we have found works best for elderly people who want to keep active in retirement is a mixture of moderate cardiovascular exercise; such as running, cycling, brisk walking, hiking or swimming, and some form of strength training (either in a gym, or at home), and activities that promote balance (such as exercises that involve standing on one foot).

How You Should Exercise If You Want To Keep Active In Old Age

In a blog, we aren’t able to tell you the best way to exercise because there are lots of factors that influence this. If you have existing, or recurring injuries, these also need to be treated to ensure that you can exercise safely, and ensure that you can get fitter so you can go cycling with your friends, play with the grandchildren at the park, or take the dogs on long walks at the weekend.

At Sisson & Associates, in our Montross practice we offer free physical therapy consultations, where you can speak to a member of our team, ask any questions that you have, and find out what’s stopping you from getting the life you want.

We can also help you understand how to get healthier, so you are able to make the most of your retirement with your partner, friends and family rather than spending it in pain, struggling to move and feeling like a burden to those around you because you aren’t able to keep up.

Alternatively, you can call us on (804) 493-3256 if you prefer to talk over the telephone.

Other Free Resources To Help Elderly People Keep Active

Click Here To Read More Of Our Physical Therapy Blog Articles

Click Here To Read – Best Exercise to Strengthen Your Back

Click Here To Read –Can Squats Fix Your Back Pain

We also have free, downloadable reports for people with Back Pain, Knee Pain, or Neck And Shoulder Pain

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