Senior Fitness - Senior Couple Hiking

Whether your senior fitness journey is at the beginning or culmination, the seasons of life change how your body is challenged and stressed. It starts with the carefree days of childhood and endless play and moves into the dreams and risks of adolescence. Momentously, you are then finding a partner and having children, spending years of raising a family and encouraging the health of your offspring. Next, you may find yourself caring for own aging parents, and then suddenly becoming the aging parents. It seems that in life you go from having nothing but time to play, to having absolutely no time at all, to abruptly having nothing but time to pass.

Building a relationship with fitness that lasts a lifetime does not have to include running marathons, completing Ironman triathlons and winning weight-lifting competitions. Often the barrier to getting your body moving is the mental assumption that “I am too old” or “I am out of shape”. The benefits of an active life, and active aging, are worth overcoming your doubts and lacing up your sneakers. Fitness provides feelings of great energy, enlightenment and euphoria. After all, “a year from now you may wish you had started today.” – Karen Lamb

Strengthening of the mind, body and soul for Senior Fitness

We are all told throughout our lives about the endless lists of ways that our bodies, emotions and lives are improved by regular fitness. At the top of the list is that exercise lowers your risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, Alzheimer’s, anxiety and depression and also decreases your risk of a fall (see Which Performance Physical Therapy Techniques Are Best After a Fall?).

Senior Fitness - Senior Man Weight Lifting

There are several components of physical fitness:

  • Cardiovascular fitness refers to the ability of your lungs and heart to take in and carry oxygen to the rest of your body.
  • Muscular strength is the amount of work your muscles can do before becoming fatigued.
  • Flexibility is the range of movement in your muscles and joints.

Being or becoming more fit means you are progressively stressing your body to adapt and gain more power. It may sound a little intense, but some of the best fitness actually involves the functional strength that mimics activities of daily living: walking, bending, pushing and pulling. The inevitable loss of muscle mass that occurs with aging increases your risk of falls and broken bones. Having the overall goal of building strong, supportive muscles counteracts the degeneration and pain in joints. This not only will help you to maintain balance but can also inhibit the loss of the mind-muscle connections. What you consider as “optimal performance” is going to change as your age and mobility change.

Putting ideas into practice

Everyone lives their own lives at different activity levels. For those who have had decades-long routines of fitness and exercise, there may come a time when they are faced with adjusting lifelong rituals to avoid injuries. For those who are new to fitness later in life, it is best to consult your doctor before beginning and to potentially work with a certified strength and conditioning specialist as you start a new activity. See Senior Fitness Books for The Golden Years.

For fitness buffs of all ages and abilities, it is important to warm up your muscles (including your heart!), stretch and listen to your body. As you age you may want to consider switching to machines instead of free weights for support while strength training. Please, also “consider your sport” – as high intensity bursts of energy may become too intense to avoid injury. You can still feel vigorous and vital while tuning into to your body and the adjustments you need to make to stay safe while exercising.

Senior Fitness - Senior Women Yoga

Choosing a fitness activity that you know you can stick with will increase your chances of success. Some options that may appeal to you are walking and hiking, swimming and water aerobics, dancing, group exercise classes like Tai Chi or yoga, or a stationary bike. Modern technology even allows you to climb mountains, swim oceans and run through ancient cities while exercising, but never leaving your home or seat. Even if you are not technically-savvy, you can ask your family or friends to help you get set up with an interactive fitness program or app! It can help the time pass more quickly while enjoying gorgeous views and learning about different parts of the world.

For those over 65, it is recommended that in order to achieve maximum health benefits, you complete 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise, like brisk walking, or 75 minutes a week of vigorous activity, like hiking or jogging. Before you feel intimidated, remember that it does not have to be done all at once or even in long sessions. Multiple sets of 10-minutes still achieves the goal!

“Look in the mirror. That’s your competition.” – John Assaraf

Fitness, and senior fitness, can certainly be a family affair! Multi-generational activities can strengthen emotional bonds and build new friendships. Perhaps the most important aspect of being fit at any age is to find your own groove. What your friends and neighbors are capable of doing is not nearly as important as what you are capable of doing. It is a competition only against yourself and the challenges and realities of aging.

Continue reading on this front and enjoy Healthy Senior Living: Tips for a Healthier Life and Living Longer.

Sources: Getting Fit, Fit Beyond 40, Fitness for Life, It’s Not too Late, Sports at Every Age

If you, a family member or friends are in need of support for healthy aging, contact us, we are here to guide you in navigating your roadmap to aging well.

Cindy Koch

Cindy Koch, MA

Certified Placement & Referral Specialist (CPRS) | Owner

Aging at 5280 is here to help elders and their families navigate through the healthcare system and customize a plan to meet their needs.