Inspired by the Olympics: Senior Care Experts Talk About the Importance of Elderly Fitness
The Olympics: more than the sporting accolades and display of athletic excellence, the showcase of games also serves as an amazing inspiration to stay fit. Best of all, the pursuit to stay healthy isn’t limited to anyone – even the elderly are strongly suggested to get physical to make the most out of their retirement years!
We at LTC Global Agency know how important health is for the elderly. To help keep the spirit of the Olympic torch burning, we’ve asked several senior care experts on their take about the importance of seniors keeping fit. We asked this question:
In light of the Rio Olympics, which safe exercises and lifestyle changes can seniors do to keep in shape?
And here are their responses:
A lifestyle change like adding a low-impact exercise to your daily routine will get you moving which is important for maintaining good health. It’s free and safe, but speak to your health care provider before starting a new regime. Walking improves cardiovascular fitness and strengthens muscles and bones. Be sure to wear the right shoes and choose a familiar route that is flat and free of obstacles.
I think walking is the best exercise which most seniors can do to stay healthy and fit. Get together with a few friends and form a walking group to keep everyone motivated. This is what my 88-year old mom does everyday with her friends, and she is full of energy!
A simple lifestyle tip I would suggest is to get enough water to stay hydrated. Staying hydrated will contribute to general wellbeing and reduce risk of illness. It’s not always easy to get enough water throughout the day, but eating foods such as cucumbers, lettuce, watermelon, and tomatoes, can help keep you hydrated and it’s also a delicious way to stay healthy!
There are pockets of geography around the world called Blue Zones, where people, by virtue of their lifestyle, habits and environment, live to an older age. One thing consistent in these communities is Moving Naturally. In other words, you don’t have to get up and jump on the treadmill or elliptical. Instead build natural movement into your day.
I think we are all inspired, regardless of our age, by the amazing athletes we are watching at the Olympics. For myself and older adults alike, there are three main ideas to keep in mind to be our best.
- Use it or lose it- Just 30 minutes of brisk walking or other moderately intense aerobic activity each day is an important health benefit. Combine that with 2 or more days a week of muscle strengthening exercises to round out a comprehensive exercise routine. Once you establish your routine and exercise starts to seem easy, bump it up a notch (longer, faster walks, another pound on the weights) for an even more healthy you!
- Water- I can’t stress enough how important it is for older adults to be drinking enough water each day. During the heat of summer, especially in areas of extreme temperatures and humidity, drinking enough water (not sugary sports drinks) are imperative to keeping bodies running smoothly. Older people may not experience thirst as strongly as younger folks, so regardless of how thirsty you are, make sure to be drinking at least 8 glasses of water per day and more if you live in a particularly warm and/or humid weather.
- Diet- Food is the fuel for your body. For older adults that live with a spouse or are alone, it’s easy to pop a pre-packaged meal in the microwave. Unfortunately, these meals are full of sodium and preservatives, which are not that great for you if you consider these additional “ingredients”. If you aren’t a cook (or no longer want to cook) look for meal services that will deliver healthy, right-sized meals to your door (there are plenty of them out there). If you are purchasing pre-packaged meals at the store, pay attention to the nutrition label and ingredients to know what you are putting in your body. The best option (health-wise) is to prepare fresh fruits, vegetables, grains and proteins from local sources.
It’s important to engage in forms of exercise that fit well into our lifestyles. Walking is perhaps the easiest to fit into our day, and just three 10 minute walks per day can do it! Tai Chi is great for balance and fall prevention and yoga keeps us limber and flexible. For many, swimming is a good option and easy on the joints. The main thing is do something you enjoy and work with professionals who can adjust things if we have injuries, aches or pains!
Seniors need to pick an activity that they enjoy so that they will do it regularly and incorporate it into their daily routine. It could be walking, yoga, tai chi, dancing or Zumba Gold. The activity of choice is not as important as loving it and doing it 150 minutes per week. Olympians practice their craft everyday just as seniors who want to stay healthy need to do! Exercise, eating a healthy diet and staying mentally engaged all play a role in fitness!
September is Healthy Aging Month and in light of the Rio Olympics, why not use the month to be inspired towards better health? Let’s start by taking responsibility for our own health. For those 60 and over it can begin with small changes. Get out of the sitting mode and get moving. Walking in your neighborhood alone, with a friend, or with a pet dog will cost nothing. The benefits to our body and mind are numerous. Plus September is National Senior Center Month and the theme is Find Balance at Your Center. Check out your local Senior Center to find an exercise class that fits your interest and schedule. Guaranteed you will find like-minded adults and fitting exercise into your daily activities will seem easier and more enjoyable.
Movement is the most important thing seniors can do to stay in shape and maintain their independence.
If a senior has been active, they can remain active well into their golden years. We have a Catholic sister who lives close to me that continues to run Ironman races at the age of 86. If that’s not your speed, there are tai chi and yoga classes made specifically for seniors as well as a national chain called ZENgevity that teaches gentle movement. Walking is also great. The most important part is to do some sort of activity on a consistent basis.
Eating the right foods goes a long way in improving health. Lean meats, fish, fruits and vegetables should be the mainstay of your diet. Avoid processed foods, and keep your salt intake in check to avoid such problems as edema (swelling), high blood pressure and hypertension. Remaining active is also key to better health. Regular exercise reduces your risk of coronary artery disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and other adverse health conditions. We like to pass along the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation for 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (such as brisk walking) every week and muscle-strengthening activities (starting with light weights of one or two pounds) on two or more days per week. Make exercise a group activity. Participating in a class—i.e., aerobics, tai chi, yoga, Pilates, Zumba or line-dancing, for instance—can keep you fit while making new friends and social activities. Plus, if you’re in a group, you’re more likely to be motivated to keep going.
Watching the Summer Olympics in Rio is an activity all in the family can enjoy. But, if you’re elderly and just walking upstairs to your bedroom feels like a marathon, how can you get into the spirit along with the rest?
While not eligible for an Olympic medal, walking and climbing stairs with ease is something a senior can be proud of.
Try the Leg Curl:
- Stand behind a sturdy chair or countertop and hold on for balance. Lift one leg straight back without bending the knee or pointing the toes. Breathe in slowly.
- Breathe out, slowly bringing the heel up toward the buttocks as far as possible.
- Hold position for 1 second.
- Breathe in, slowly lowering the foot to the floor.
- Repeat 10 – 15 times on each side and complete 3 sets.
The rest of the family should feel free to applaud!
Exercise and physical activity are good for just about everyone, including older adults. There are four main types and each type is different. Doing them all will give you more benefits.
- Endurance, or aerobic, activities increase your breathing and heart rate. Brisk walking or jogging, dancing, swimming, and biking are examples.
- Strength exercises make your muscles stronger. Lifting weights or using a resistance band can build strength.
- Balance exercises help prevent falls
- Flexibility exercises stretch your muscles and can help your body stay limber
For seniors with mobility and other health issues, finding safe exercises can sometimes be challenging. One often-overlooked form of exercise is the simple act of deep breathing. Deep breathing can also lessen anxiety and stress, boost energy, and bring more oxygen into the body. This exercise can be done standing or sitting, on a daily basis. When you begin, try to focus on your breath. Then, instead of through the mouth, take breaths in via the nose and release them by mouth. The saying “don’t forget to breathe” is important in more ways than one!
Seniors doing their best to stay fit is already an achievement meant to be savored and applauded by all. Do you have other tips or thoughts on how the elderly can keep fit?
Please share it with us below.