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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.
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.
Exercise benefits much more than just the body — you can also improve your mental and emotional health by maintaining an active life. And if you have fun while you’re being active, chances are you’ll want to continue participating in that activity. Join a walking group so you can exercise and socialize at the same time, listen to music while you garden or work outside, call a friend and take a water aerobics class together, or join an organized club or sport. Stay active, stay involved, and you’ll stay healthy!

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.
Staying active can keep you feeling and looking your best — at every stage of your life. An active lifestyle is especially important for senior health because regular exercise can help prevent heart disease, diabetes, and certain forms of cancer, and it can also reduce pain associated with arthritis. By improving balance, flexibility, endurance, and strength, older adults can stay healthier longer. The National Institute on Aging is a great resource for learning more about the exercise benefits for seniors. Just remember to check with your doctor before beginning a new exercise program.
Do you feel an irresistible urge to move your legs that causes you to wake up during the night? Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is a sleep disorder that creates these feelings and can cause significant sleep disturbances. Typically caused by iron deficiency, low dopamine levels, or genetic factors RLS symptoms can be managed with exercise and stretches. Learn more about how you can implement exercises for restless leg syndrome into your daily routine.
Get motivation and find support by joining an accountability group and surround yourself with people working towards similar goals. These groups are designed to increase your performance, measure your progress, keep you engaged, and allow you to express your thoughts and feelings. Search for groups through your social media accounts. Discover forums (like this one!) where you can share about your journey and receive virtual support from others going through the same experience. If you're feeling courageous, start one of your own!
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