woman after a workout

There are a lot of fit seniors around today. What is a senior?  I guess, now that I’m over 60, I think of seniors as people at least 10-15 years older than me. 

In fact, I was pleasantly surprised and a bit dejected when I realized that I qualify for the early line for seniors at Trader Joe’s. I don’t feel like a senior, but the truth is, I am.

Any of us who are now in our 60s were very likely part of the workout craze of the 80s and maybe could still find an old Jane Fonda exercise VHS tape in their attic. Here is my friend, Dr. Mimi Secor, who is over 60 and started bodybuilding. Her link here. For more inspiration, here’s 6 bodybuilders over 70 and another 80-year-old iron pumper who didn’t start working out until age 56. 

But, there are also many of us who find regular exercise difficult due to pain, chronic illnesses, and other conditions. But even if you can only exercise from a chair, you can, yes, you can improve your fitness by increasing your strength and balance. As always, before you start an exercise program it is wise to check with your health care provider to discuss what is best for you. 

Main Types of Exercise

  • Endurance or aerobic, activities increase your breathing and heart rate. Brisk walking or jogging, dancing, swimming, and biking – even gardening and housework, can be aerobic. 
  • Strength training exercises build muscle and strengthen ligaments. Lifting weights or using a resistance band builds strength. Unloading groceries is weight-bearing!
  • Balance exercises can prevent falls
  • Flexibility exercises stretch your muscles, keep your body in alignment, and able to be active without injury. Pilates and yoga promote flexibility and strength.

For seniors and the elderly, it is especially important to focus on maintaining muscle mass, mobility, and balance. Age-related muscle mass loss (called sarcopenia) happens to us all. If you are inactive you can lose as much as 3% to 5% of your muscle mass each decade after age 30. Though muscle loss is a reality even for those who exercise regularly, we can slow it down, staying stronger for longer. Here are ways to keep your muscles strong:

  • Strength training, either with elastic bands, free weights, or machines give enough resistance to build muscle faster. Here is a no-frills short strength training video for seniors.

Also, let us not forget the mighty squat! This is the motion it takes to get up out of a chair and let’s say it, off the toilet. For the elderly, this can actually be the factor in how long they can maintain independent living. So, start now, people! Here is a beginner’s video on the squat.

What About Seated Exercise?

Many people with arthritic hips or knees, or those who are very overweight, find even taking a walk too difficult. With the support of a chair, anyone can start improving their overall fitness and health. This is also a good solution for these Stay at Home days, especially for those without access to much floor space. Here is an example of chair exercise and fitness.

Water is a Senior’s Friend

Exercise in water has many benefits, especially for seniors and those who are overweight. Water offers more resistance than air, so even walking in water takes more effort, burns calories, and gets your muscles working. Also, it provides a low-impact, low weight-bearing workout that allows joint lubrication and range of motion without jarring impact. Here are best swimming exercise ideas from American Senior Communities.

Ok, so now the rest is up to YOU! Or, if you’re caring for someone who needs to move more, encourage and offer to do the exercises with them. Here’s the secret: Once you start exercising and moving more, your body likes it, feels better, so you’ll want to continue. Send me your ideas about the best exercises after 60!

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