Now's a great time to make the proactive choice to get more active and stay healthier for longer. Even if you’re not a fan of exercise, there are many beneficial and fun new activities you can try anytime, anywhere – even from the comfort of your home.
“Regular physical activity helps improve mental and physical health, and cardiovascular and respiratory functions,” says Shawna Wert, a personal trainer at Edge Fitness Club in Washington Township, NJ. “You also reduce your risk of cardiovascular diseases and health issues from being overweight. Plus, you can extend your lifespan.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), by age 75, about one in three men and one in two women engage in no physical activity,¹ leading to a loss of strength and stamina. “Physically inactive adults may lose as much as 3% to 5% of their muscle mass each decade after age 30, making independent living more difficult,” Wert says.
If you stay active as you age, you lower the risk of developing heart disease, high blood pressure, colon cancer and diabetes, according to the CDC. In addition, exercise helps maintain healthy bones, muscles and joints and reduces the risk of falling. Finally, regular physical activity improves symptoms of anxiety and depression, and instead increases more positive moods and feelings of well-being.
“The human body was designed for physical activity and social interaction,” says Mo Orlando, co-owner of the Audubon, NJ-based Evolve Fitness. “CrossFit and boot camps are so successful – because the communities they create. As we get older, we need to focus on staying active physically and mentally. While we age, our abilities may change, but our needs don’t.”
All healthy adults should ideally take part in moderate aerobic physical activity for a minimum of 30 minutes three to five days a week, Wert says. “At the very least, you should perform activities that maintain or increase your muscular strength and endurance for a minimum of two days a week,” she says.
Take your pick from seven healthy and fun activities you can try today. Yes, you can be fit after 55 (and we have plenty of tips to help you).
Can you power walk at home?
Walking is a great way to lower your weight, improve your general flexibility and heart health. While many people enjoy walking in parks or along a boardwalk, you can get your step count raised even walking around your building or in your own home.
“We’re now aware of the benefits of walking at least 10,000 steps a day,” Orlando says. “Increased aerobic breathing capacity is the key to maintaining a healthy heart, a healthy spine for fewer back and hip troubles and a healthy weight. I advise clients to make walking a staple activity that they engage in, no matter their age.”
Pilates and stretching can be done at home
Pilates is an exercise system involving the use of controlled movements, which sometimes look like a slow and stately dance sequence. It’s great to stretch out your limbs and muscles and—with consistent practice—build up your strength and improve overall flexibility.
This is especially important for seniors whose muscles can begin to atrophy, thus making mobility a challenge. However, Pilates or even regular stretching helps keep you limber and mobile to prevent stiffness. “Stretching helps develop and maintain strength, improve flexibility and increase blood-flow circulation,” Wert says.
Additionally, Pilates promotes balance, something many seniors battle. By taking part in a regular Pilates course, you can protect yourself from the dangers of falls. This is a leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of trauma-related hospital admissions among older adults, according to the National Council on Aging. In fact, one in four Americans aged 65 and older, falls every year, and every 11 seconds a senior citizen goes to the emergency room for a fall, the NCOA reports.
“Stretching is great for core activation and pelvic control,” Orlando says. “Having our spine and pelvis aligned properly provides movement efficiency and cuts down on joint discomfort.”
You can do Pilates from the privacy of your home. You may be surprised how many fun and informative videos you'll find just by searching on Youtube.
Unify your body and mind through yoga
Research indicates that yoga benefits older adults in many ways: better balance, cardiometabolic health, sleep quality, reduced anxiety and better mood and quality of life, according to an article published by the National Institutes of Health.
“Yoga builds muscle strength, aerobic fitness, core stability and total body mobility,” Wert says. “It’s low impact and gentle on your joints, but still weight bearing, so it helps strengthen your muscles and bones.”
Yoga is also great for learning pranayama, or breathing techniques and exercises. This helps improve lung and breathing capacity. “Don’t underestimate the mind and body connection,” Orlando says. “Yogis have understood the power of breathing for thousands of years. Proper breathing heals the brain.”
The beauty of yoga is that it can be done anywhere. Whether you find a video on YouTube or watch shows like Yoga in Practice on TV, yoga helps on so many fronts including hearing.
Salsa dancing makes you smile
Exercise can be really fun! Don’t believe us? Salsa dancing is a great form of cardio exercise. And the benefits don’t end with heart health and improved mood. One study of seniors who took part in dance showed better balance and gait, according to an article published by the National Institutes of Health.
“The human body was designed to move at various speeds while turning and rotating,” Orlando says. “I highly recommend the muscle-and-mind control of dancing.”
While salsa is considered a partner dance, other forms include line dancing if you’re going solo. Once you know the basic salsa steps, you can expand into other spirited Latin American dances like mambo, merengue, bachata and reggaeton, among others.
In general, dancing is a great activity because you can do it at home—and doesn’t require special equipment. Just turn on your favorite music and have a blast.
Yes, you can tackle weightlifting
You might think that when you hit your 65th birthday, your weightlifting days are done. But in actuality, weight training strengthens your body, which, in turn, makes it easier to perform your daily tasks and live independently.
“The ability to lift weight is something we should always maintain, keeping in mind that ‘heavy’ is relative for everyone,” Orlando says. “Weightlifting puts enough load on the joints and stress on the bone to remain healthy. Our body health requires continuous load to remain active.”
In fact, seniors should incorporate strength training into their exercise routines at least twice per week, according to the CDC. (It’s important to talk to your doctor before you start a weightlifting regimen.) Begin with light weights until you build up your stamina and strength.
“Try light weightlifting two to three days a week,” Wert says. “This practice can protect you from injuries, and will also boost your strength, balance and agility.” In addition to using free weights, Wert recommends doing bodyweight and resistance-band exercises.
When you think of tennis, you might imagine Venus and Serena Williams as they power the ball over the net. However, you can enjoy an active, fun exercise in tennis that offers several benefits, along with some friendly competition.
First, tennis gives you a cardiovascular advantage. Chasing down the ball to lob it back at your opponent can give you quite a cardio workout, which can improve your heart and lung health.
When you play tennis, your bones work to bear your body weight. This actually helps strengthen them and increases bone density, preventing osteoporosis and osteoarthritis.
“Tennis incorporates all aspects the body needs to remain healthy from your brain to your feet,” Orlando says. “Speed, power, arm movement, change of direction, quick thinking and overhead movements make tennis a well-rounded activity.”
Swimming and water aerobics
Swimming and water aerobics is highly beneficial for seniors. For many who’ve put on excess weight, land exercise can be difficult. Excess body weight adds too much pressure on your knees, hips or ankle joints. With water-based activities, however, you experience a natural buffer that makes it less likely you’ll injure yourself. “You’re getting a low-impact experience that cushions your joints, builds core muscles, as well as improves flexibility, stability and balance.”
If you suffer from arthritis or bone issues, or have had a knee or hip replacement, swimming and water aerobics should be high on your list of rehab activities, according to the CDC. Water-based exercise has been shown to increase older Americans’ quality of life and decrease disability.
Fun water activities to try? Do aqua jogging or walking from one side of a pool to the other. You can modify it by marching in place. You’ll get your heart rate up with this low-impact exercise. Flutter kicking is another great low-impact cardio activity that you can do with a kickboard to cross back and forth in the pool. You can also hold onto the side of the pool and flutter kick in place.
Many public pools even have wheelchair lifts to get you in and out of the pool if you need extra assistance. You can add light weights to your workout in the pool to take your routine up a notch. Just remember - if you wear hearing aids, water and hearing aids don't mix.
Resolve to Get Active – and Stay Fit
It’s never too late to add more exercise into your life. Right now is a great time to be more active in your daily routine.
“It’s more important to focus on the activities we can do and can be consistent with, like taking regular walks,” Orlando says. “The body-mind connection is so important as we age.”
¹Physical Activity and Health: A Report of the Surgeon General, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
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