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Exercise Guidelines for Seniors

Why exercise?

Exercising is the single most important thing that you can do to keep yourself healthy and to delay the aging process. Keeping physically fit may add up to two to three years to an individual's life span.

The benefits of exercise go far beyond improving cardiovascular fitness and pulmonary function. Exercise helps to:

  • Control blood pressure
  • Protect against diabetes
  • Ward off depression, anxiety, and insomnia
  • Enhance balance and strength (minimizing accidental falls)
  • Prevent osteoporosis
  • Decrease the risk of certain cancers
  • Maintain normal weight
  • Decrease cholesterol
  • Improve cognition
  • Lessen the pain of osteoarthritis

Stretching

Stretching increases blood flow and gets your body ready for exercise. Stretching also improves flexibility, eases movement, and lowers the risk of injury and muscle strain. A warm-up and cool-down period of 5 to 15 minutes should be done slowly and carefully before and after all types of exercise. Stretching can help loosen muscles in the arms, shoulders, back, chest, stomach, buttocks, thighs, and calves. It's also very relaxing.

Which types of exercise are best?

A comprehensive exercise program should include the following:

Stretching increases blood flow and gets your body ready for exercise. Stretching also improves flexibility, eases movement, and lowers the risk of injury and muscle strain. A warm-up and cool-down period of 5 to 15 minutes should be done slowly and carefully before and after all types of exercise. Stretching can help loosen muscles in the arms, shoulders, back, chest, stomach, buttocks, thighs, and calves. It's also very relaxing.A comprehensive exercise program should include the following:

Aerobic exercise: Improves cardiovascular fitness and muscle tone. This type of exercise includes activities such as walking, running, swimming, cycling, dancing, rowing, and cross country skiing.

Weight training (resistance) exercise: Promotes muscle strength and flexibility.

Both aerobic and weight training exercise can improve balance. Recent studies have suggested that Tai Chi, an ancient Chinese exercise regimen, may be even more effective than traditional exercise programs in preventing accidental falls in older individuals.

Important reminders

Older individuals, especially those who have led a very sedentary lifestyle, should check with their doctors before embarking on a vigorous exercise regimen. Additional testing (such as a stress test) may be necessary.

No matter how long, short, or intense the exercise regimen, always include a warm-up and cool-down period. This step will help decrease the chance of injury.

Exercise tips

  • Wait at least two hours after eating before vigorous exercise.
  • Exercise only when feeling well.
  • Drink plenty of fluids both before and after exercising.
  • Wear loose, comfortable clothing that allows you to move easily. Supportive footwear designed for exercise is a must.
  • Set realistic and safe goals.
  • Avoid exercising outdoors in very warm or very cold weather.
  • If you experience any of the following symptoms, stop exercising immediately: chest pain or discomfort, dizziness, palpitations, or excessive shortness of breath.
  • Exercise with a friend.
  • Find an exercise regimen, instructor, and/or program that you like, and have fun!

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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 4/26/2007...#6400