Part 3. Staying Fit for Life
With all the things on our minds as we grow older, why do we also have to think about physical fitness? The answer is if you’re not fit, you may cease to function—physically and mentally. Function is the keyword here. Functional fitness helps people perform daily tasks with ease. Three key elements of functional fitness for seniors are balance, mobility, and strength. Balance keeps you upright and steady so you don’t bump into walls or become a fall risk. Mobility is the ability to move freely and easily. Strength depends on muscle mass, which seniors have been losing for some time, and is important for performing activities of daily living and preventing falls.
- Which is better—ten thousand steps a day or three hundred minutes a week of sweat? The answer, according to some fitness trainers, is three hundred minutes a week of sweat. Aim for a minimum of 30 minutes, five to seven days a week.
- Cardio is great, but you need more. Do resistance training (with bands or weights at least two to three times a week to build and keep your muscle tone.
- Try interval training—short bursts of heart-pumping activity—to get your heart thumping.
- Whatever exercise you doing, always pay attention to form over the number of repetitions. The right technique is important when you’re older because the wrong technique can throw your body out of alignment.
- If you really want to develop good form, when it’s safe to go to the gym again, work with a fitness trainer. It’s worth the investment to learn to do things correctly from the beginning.
- Take a dance class. Dance is a great all-over body strengthener. It works the upper and lower body, but most importantly, the core. This helps improve stability and balance, which prevent you from falling.
- Get a pet. Walking a dog is one of the best ways to get in your exercise, not to mention the joy of having a companion who will love your unconditionally.
- Learn Yoga. Yoga may look easy, but it can be quite a workout. It has many benefits including improving balance and stability, enhancing strength and flexibility, and calming the mind. Be sure to look for classes designed specifically for older people.
- Build some muscle. Strength training can be done at home with very little equipment. Buy a pair of one- and two-pound weights or find lightweight items around the house and start with a few basic exercises. There are some wonderful online programs for every kind of exercise, including strength training.
- Hit the pool. Swimming works the entire body in a gentle way. It increases the heart rate and works the muscles for improved strength and tone. If swimming laps isn’t your thing, sign up for a water exercise class. They range from gentle stretching to deep-water aerobics.