As a personal trainer for seniors, it is safe to say that I have been encouraging them to work out for years. One of my biggest reasons for motivating seniors to exercise is because I know what it can do for them both physically and mentally. Last week, I get together with a couple who are in their 70’s, and they shared how they have started to see their friends’ inactive problems particularly with their back, hip, and knees. Although many seniors know it is necessary to be active, one problem I realize is that sometimes they don’t know what to do.
We know that walking is good exercise, but what else is important in staying mobile, agile and strong as we get older?
- Break Your Workout Into 4 Parts- Warmup, Balance, Strength, And Stretching- The warmup prepares your body for exercise, and this can help you avoid hurting yourself. Balance is necessary for fall prevention and maintaining your coordination. Strength training is important because it enables you to maintain muscle as we lose it through aging. Finally, stretching keeps you loose and retaining a good range of motion in your body.
- Do Both Static And Dynamic Balance- Once you are good with static balance (balance when not moving), do more ofdynamic balance (balance while moving). Yes, it is good to work up by standing on 1 foot, add tandem walking which is great for dynamic balance.
- Do At Least 2 Strength Training Workouts Per Week- I would encourage seniors to do more than 1 day of strength training because one day isn’t enough to build the muscle. I recommend doing full body workouts that include exercises like squats, back rows, bridges, planks and shoulder exercises.
- Stretch As Much As Possible – In a previous article, I wrote about the importance of stretching. Personally, I know when I don’t stretch. It is amazing how stiff I feel after not doing it for a few days or after a workout. I recommend focusing on stretching your chest, neck, shoulder, back, hip flexors, quads, and glutes.
- Mix In Cardio – while cardio is good to do, I feel the previous 4 steps are more important for seniors to stay mobile, agile and strong. My two favourite cardiovascular exercises for seniors are walking and swimming. Swimming is great because it is very easy on the joints particularly if you have arthritis.