Exercise is an important part of being healthy, but it’s particularly critical for older women. It helps protect against osteoporosis, heart disease and stroke, and it improves your strength and mobility so you can live a vibrant, independent life.
Women lose bone density with age, particularly after menopause. After age 50, the average person loses about 1% of muscle mass per year. Physical activity can help restore muscle and bone loss.
Adults over the age of 65 should participate in:
- A minimum of 2.5 hours per week of moderate activity
- At least two days per week of muscle-strengthening exercises
- Balance exercises
Moderate activity is safe for most healthy people, but if you have a heart condition, high blood pressure or other medical issues, consult your doctor before beginning an exercise program.
If you’ve always loved to jog, play tennis or golf, keep at it! If you’re looking for a new activity or want to get back into fitness, here are some exercises to try.
Yoga is a great all-around activity that combines flexibility, balance, strength and endurance. It’s easily customized to meet individual needs. You can use props such as a bolster or blanket to support you at first and rely on your own muscle strength as you progress.
There are many types of yoga, but if you’re just starting, look for a beginner’s class or another slow-paced class to help you acquire proper technique. Yoga can also be done at home with a DVD.
Pilates is a low-impact exercise that focuses on core strength, stability, posture and balance. It works on the hips, back and abdominal muscles and is usually performed on a piece of equipment called a Reformer with the guidance of an instructor. Mat Pilates is based on these exercises and can be done on the floor without equipment.
If you love to dance, Zumba is the activity for you. This Latin-dance-inspired class develops endurance, strength and balance and adds in a generous dose of fun. Zumba is offered at community centers and gyms. DVDs are available if you want to dance your way to health at home.
Swimming is a simple, low-impact exercise that boosts your heart rate and helps with weight loss. Head to the pool and swim laps at your own pace, or join a group water aerobics class and socialize at the same time.
The easiest way to get active is to put on a pair of running shoes and start walking. Try to keep up a brisk pace, whether you’re on your own or with a friend. If you need a challenge, use some hand weights as you walk. Walking can be done in all types of weather if you’re appropriately dressed, but a treadmill at the gym can also do the trick.
Accidental falls affect about 30% of people over the age of 65, increasing the risk of bone fractures. You can perform simple exercises at home to improve your balance.
- Toe Stand: Holding the back of a chair, lift yourself up on your toes and slowly lower down. Repeat 15 times. As your balance gets better, you can do the exercise without holding the chair and eventually with your eyes closed.
- Heel-Toe Walk: Practice walking as if you’re on a tightrope down a hallway. As you take a step, place your heel in front of the toes of your other foot. Repeat all the way down the hallway and back, holding your arms out for balance if needed.
- Standing on One Leg: Using a wall or chair for support, balance as you stand on one leg. Repeat on the other side.
Researchers have found that tai chi can reduce falls in older adults by 45%. It’s performed while standing and involves flexibility and range of motion. Although it appears to be slow-moving, this low-impact activity can be invigorating. Tai chi helps with bone strength, joint stability and cardiovascular health and is suitable for all fitness levels.
Stretching and Flexibility
Flexibility is important so you can bend, lift and move with ease. Work on your flexibility with a restorative yoga class, stretch class or home exercises. The National Institute on Aging has a series of exercises on its website that work on stretching the calves, hips, thighs, back, chest, shoulders and neck. All you need is a mat and chair.
Weight training helps build strength and increase bone density. If you’re starting out, you may want to use weight machines, which offer more stability, and consult with a trainer who can help with proper technique. Free weights and floor exercises are also options. Choose a weight that’s comfortable at first, and add more weight as it gets easier to lift.
A variety of physical activities that work different parts of your body is your best bet for overall health, but one writer on the AARP blog suggests the plank may be the best all-around exercise for people over the age of 50. Best described as a stationary push-up, the plank engages your entire body. Combine it with other activities for a complete exercise program.
Enjoy retirement and an active independent lifestyle at our retirement village, where residents can access an indoor heated pool, daily exercise classes, a fitness trainer and a fully equipped gym. Give us a call at 610-891-3700 to schedule a visit and learn more about our luxury retirement community.