Adding resistance with light weights or elastic bands helps develop muscle mass and upper body strength. Sit (or stand) with feet flat on the floor and hold weights at shoulder height with palms facing forward, then lift the weights above your head. Other beneficial exercises for upper body strength include side arm raises — hold weights at your sides, palms inward, and raise your arms out to the sides — and front arm raises — hold weights at your sides, palms down, and raise arms to shoulder height. Aim for two sets of at least 10 reps for each of these three exercises.
Aerobic activity helps older adults burn off calories, lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, maintain joint movement, improve heart health, and increase energy levels overall. Building endurance may take some time, depending on your health and activity level. Try starting with 5-minute cardio sessions a few days a week to raise your heart rate. From there, work toward eventually completing 30 minutes of aerobic activity on most days. Moderate endurance exercise for seniors includes walking briskly, tennis, and swimming; more intense aerobic activities include hiking and running.
Strength training differs from cardiovascular training. One involves aerobic training, whereas, the other involves working and strengthening your muscles. According to Wikipedia, strength training is “…a type of physical exercise specializing in the use of resistance to induce muscular contraction which builds the strength, anaerobic endurance, and size of skeletal muscles.”
Lifting everyday objects like a suitcase or a gallon-size jug of water can become more difficult as you age. Arm curls will strengthen the muscles involved with these movements. Either seated or standing, hold hand weights down at your sides with palms facing up and elbows tucked in, then bend your elbows and lift the weights toward your chest. Hold each repetition for about 1 second, then slowly lower the arms; do a set of 10 reps, rest, and repeat another set.
Balance decreases as we age, and consequently, falling is a major concern for the elderly. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one of every three Americans over the age of 65 falls each year, and among individuals 65-84, falls account for 87% of all fractures and are the second leading cause of spinal cord and brain injury. The good news is that physical activity can improve balance and reduce the risk of falling. The results of a study of 256 older adults (70 to 92 years of age, average age 77) who participated in tai chi for six months found that there were 52% fewer falls in the individuals who did tai chi compared to those who didn't.
Restless leg syndrome, also called Willis-Ekbom disease, is a sleep disorder that creates uncomfortable sensations in the legs while you rest. It is thought to be caused by an iron deficiency or low dopamine levels within the brain. Many treatments aim to reduce symptoms through lifestyle changes, iron supplements, medication, moderate exercise, and massage therapy. Learn more in this article about how you can integrate massage for restless leg syndrome into your life and get the sleep you need.
For aerobic exercise: Walking, dancing (when's the last time you took a ballroom-dancing class?), biking, and swimming are all good options. You can also try exercise videos. Collage Video is a good resource. They have lots of videos for individuals of all ages (search their site for "seniors"). Also check out your local senior center, rec center, Y, or local fitness center for classes that are appropriate for you. Many centers offer exercise classes for seniors. They're out there if you look.
Usually associated with the county, senior centers offer a wide variety of services and support, along with social events. Visit your senior center or look for their website online to get more information on what they have to offer. Most sites will provide a list of programs and upcoming events that are open to the public. Getting involved in some social activities will open the doors to meeting others in your community!