Last week, September 22, marked the first day of Fall and the 9th annual National Council on Aging (NCOA) Falls Prevention Awareness Day. This annual national celebration is designed to raise recognition around the importance of fall prevention to older adults.
The NCOA says an older American is seen in the ER every 11 seconds for a fall-related injury and the organization’s research shows falls are the leading cause of both fatal and non-fatal injuries for seniors.
Fortunately, falls are not an inevitable result of aging but, rather, are preventable through the application of the NCOA’s 6 Steps to Prevent a Fall program.
We touched on the importance of proper nutrition in our blog post, Healthy Eating for Older Adults, earlier this month and are outlining the importance of senior physical fitness in this follow up.
Although falls can and do impact seniors’ quality of life, they are not the only reason exercise and fitness for older adults is important. Maintaining physical activity levels throughout life is essential to mobility and the betterment of many health conditions.
Older adults are more prone to increased weight gain, as well as decreased bone density (especially women). Exercise helps to combat this through better balance, strength and heart health. Of course, physical activity also can help with mental health, encouraging a more positive outlook on life.
It’s never too late to begin a new fitness regimen— whether in your 60s, 70s, 80s or beyond. However, whether you’re just beginning a new exercise routine or modifying a lifelong fitness habit as you age, modifications to accommodate physical limitations, illnesses and ailments become ever more important for Boomers and seniors.
According to the NCOA, “Regular exercise can help older adults stay independent and prevent many health problems that come with age.” To promote regular activity, they adhere to the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.
These guidelines have been modified for older adults but still include two types of physical activity— muscle-strengthening and aerobic:
- Moderate exercise for at least 30 minutes five days each week
- Muscle-strengthening activities two or more days each week that work all major muscle groups
Although the CDC points out that less than one-third of Americans age 65+ currently meet these guidelines, the basic recommendations are not difficult to schedule with the help of experts (or even at home) for most people. You don’t have to do it all at once and can, in fact, break it into smaller increments of only 10 minutes at a time.
So, what constitutes moderate exercise and muscle-strengthening activity?
According to the CDC, “moderate-intensity aerobic activity means you’re working hard enough to raise your heart rate and break a sweat.” Their varied examples for seniors include:
- Walking fast
- Doing water aerobics
- Riding a bike
- Playing doubles tennis
- Pushing a lawn mower
The CDC further states, “Muscle-strengthening activities need to be done to the point where it’s hard for you to do another repetition without help.” These can be done on the same or different days you do your aerobic activity but don’t count as aerobic activity. Their examples include:
- Lifting weights
- Working with resistance bands
- Doing exercises that use your body weight as resistance (push ups, sit ups, etc.)
- Heavy gardening
The main point is that everyone can benefit from regular exercise when done safely— even seniors! Remember, it’s never too late to start!
To help you hit the ground running, here are some of our favorite resources on senior exercise and fitness:
- Find a certified senior fitness instructor near you via Ace Fitness.
- Join the amazing Silver Sneakers Club for free access to thousands of local gyms.
- Call your local community center for a list of available senior fitness classes.
- Many assisted living communities host regular senior exercise classes by certified professionals.
Still have questions or ready to get started? We can help you find a great long-term fit in senior care or senior housing that includes proper exercise as part of an overall older adult healthcare program. Begin your search today by contacting us at 941.479.3500 or via email at JDaniels@AssistedLivingLocators.com.