What are you going to do with all that time on your hands? It’s a question those about to retire or newly retired may hear often. And while retirement does come with more time to do the things you love, unfortunately for many, it doesn’t include exercise. But don’t worry, we’ll show you how fun and easy it can be to make exercise part of your daily routine. As well as how LACK of exercise can put a real damper on your retirement plans.
Seniors and “The Sitting Disease”
We all know that exercise offers a range of benefits both physically and mentally. But we often overlook the risks of a sedentary lifestyle – little to no physical activity and/or primarily participating in activities where you sit or lie down such as reading or watching TV.
Being sedentary, also known as “the sitting disease,” puts seniors at higher risk for conditions such as high blood pressure, stroke, cardiovascular disease, some cancers, Type 2 diabetes and even cognitive decline. What’s more, bone loss may happen at a faster rate, you’re more at risk for falls and may have more trouble performing daily activities due to loss of muscle tissue. If that isn’t enough, you’re also more at risk of depression.
And shockingly, the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that a 67 percent of seniors are, in fact, sedentary for at least 8.5 hours a day.
But, if the gym has never been your friend, don’t worry. The benefits of exercise are seen not only in those who maintain an existing level of physical activity, but also in those who begin exercising between ages 70 and 85.
The First Step
Now that you know it’s never too late to get started, what do you do first? We recommend checking with your doctor before beginning any exercise regimen to see if you have any restrictions due to medications or chronic conditions. Or, if foot pain has kept you sidelined in the past it may be time to see a podiatrist to correct any issues or help with footwear recommendations.
Making Your Move
The National Institute on Aging recommends seniors do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity throughout the week in sessions of at least 10 minutes duration across four categories of exercise: endurance, strength training, balance and flexibility. To break this down an active senior could exercise approximately 20 minutes per day, seven days per week; 30 minutes per day for five days per week; or 50 minutes per day for three days per week; whatever’s most convenient. Now let’s talk tips:
- Endurance Exercises – These are aerobic activities that increase your breathing and heart rate to improve the health of your heart, lungs and circulator system. Try brisk walking, dancing, jogging, swimming, biking, tennis or basketball – even yard work or climbing stairs count! Consider getting a pedometer to track your steps, working up to 10,000 or more steps a day.
- Strength Training – Here you’re focused on improving your muscle strength to carry those grandchildren around or simply make getting out of a chair easier. Do these exercises for all major muscle groups (shoulders, arms, chest, stomach, back, hips and legs) two or more days a week making sure not to exercise the same group two days in a row. It can be as easy as having two pound weights handy for arm curls while watching your favorite show or doing some pushups while waiting for coffee to brew in the morning.
- Balance Exercises – According to the CDC, one in four Americans aged 65 and older falls each year. And falling more than once doubles your chances of falling again. However, improving your balance through activities such as standing on one foot while waiting in line, heel-to-toe walking to get the mail and taking Tai Chi can reduce your risk.
- Flexibility Exercises – Keeping your body limber through stretching gives you more freedom of movement, making it easier to do your everyday tasks like making the bed, seeing what’s behind you when backing out the car or even bending to tie your shoes. Try neck, shoulder and upper arm stretches, calf stretches and yoga for example.
- Make it Fun – Perhaps the most important tip, as you’re more likely to keep doing something you enjoy, is to make exercising fun. Look at it as a social opportunity by joining classes at your local senior center or gym or start a walking club with your neighbors. Listen to music, podcasts or audio books while exercising, take your grandkids to the park to play or incorporate it into things you already love like gardening.
Bonus tip: Make sure you spend about five minutes before and after you exercise to warm up and cool down. This gives your muscles a chance to get ready and helps to prevent injury and soreness later.
Active Senior Living is Easy
If all of the above sounds hard to keep track of or logistically challenging due to lack of transportation, we get it. Know that there is an easier way. Today’s senior living communities are going beyond the typical games and social gatherings towards an overall wellness approach, of which exercise is a big part.
In active senior living communities you’ll have access to amenities such as a fitness center, pool, a range of exercise classes and even walking trails and dog parks in some cases. Plus it’s all steps from your door so you no longer have to worry about transportation; and there will always be an exercise buddy nearby!
For more information on how our active senior living communities support a healthy retirement, contact us today to schedule a visit →