Ways for seniors to exercise safely

By Makenzie Jones on 1st Apr 2018

Marathons may be out (for most) seniors, but exercise is still important. Makenzie Jones looks at some options and where you can go locally to join other seniors in keep fit sessions

Just like it is not wise nor beneficial to cram for a test at the last minute, you can’t make up years of unhealthy diet all at once. While changing to healthier choices is still beneficial, it is best to make it a lifelong habit now that will only help in the future. Those in their 20s and 30s are the age group most likely to socially eat out, which is a great activity for building relationships, but those meals can rack up more calories than a single day needs. Having gatherings at one friend’s house will help both the wallet and the waist. Women in this age group are potential mothers, increasing the need for folate and omega-3 fatty acids to foster proper child development. Once people reach their 40s and 50s, weight gain typically begins. This is a good time to meet with a dietician to discover your unique needs to meet for the course of your life. Women in this age group are approaching menopause, increasing the need for calcium due to the loss of production of estrogen. Watching sodium in the diet can help regulate blood pressure. Once people reach their 60s, brain health, protein consumption, and hydration are key, as these deteriorate with age. Berries are great foods to help the brain and provide antioxidants and water. Increased protein helps prevent muscle loss. Registered Dietician Nancy Clark suggests taking in 15-20 grams of protein every four hours to keep it in the body system all day long.

Diet alone can’t help a person stay young and healthy; exercise is the egg to the bacon in this plan. Sarcopenia is the medical term for age-related muscle loss, and it begins as early as late 40s and early 50s, about 1% per year. Several issues contribute to sarcopenia, including lower testosterone and estrogen, genetics, sickness and injury, previous dieting, arthritis, and activity level. However, it is not too late to build and maintain muscle! One of the most important types of exercise for seniors is resistance and weight training. Equally important in this area is supervision to perform the exercises correctly to avoid injury. With age, the muscles get less elastic, meaning that warming up before a workout is even more important than when you are younger. This helps loosen up and prepare the muscles to work hard and helps prevent injury. Possessing this muscle mass has benefits in both physical health and all-around wellness. Muscle tissue burns calories and regulates blood sugar and hormones. Having strength allows you to continue doing the activities that make your heart happy such as playing with your kids, grandkids, and pets. It also makes everyday tasks like cleaning, carrying groceries, walking up the stairs, and opening containers easier. To maintain the muscle that you gain, cardio can help. This type of exercise also helps with insulin response and gets your heart rate elevated. At least 30 minutes of brisk walking, biking, swimming, etc. is suggested at least three days a week. The simplest habit for a healthy future is to move more, and sit less. Together with diet, exercise can keep you feeling young.

Valerie Farmer, Activities Director at Regency Retirement Village suggests, “Regular, continued exercise for seniors is very important. Many people lose their agility and balance as they get older because they do not stay active.”

While Edie Rhoads, at the Workout Anytime gym adds, “I would say that watching our senior population of members come in every day is extremely inspiring. So are many of the stories they have. Many have been able to come off of blood pressure medications as well as reverse diabetes and come off of all meds for that.
We have watched many older members have a greater quality of life simply because they are more active. Many have formed friendships with others in the gym and now make plans to workout together regularly.” –

There are plenty of opportunities for seniors to get involved in physical activity right here in Nashville (and across the country). Nashville.gov provides programs for those ages 55 and older including the Metro Parks Senior Rec Program, MTA Access Ride transportation, and dance clubs. There are also services to extended families, art activities, and a Senior Dining Program that offers a noon meal on the weekdays. The YMCA of Middle Tennessee is always open to seniors and provides opportunities beyond the gym to stay involved in social events, like potlucks, group outings, and community service. Another location to find convenient help with fitness and nutrition is 24 Hour Fitness. These outlets partner with Silver & Fit and Silver Sneakers, programs that can be found nationwide and provided by many insurance companies. Silver Sneakers is free for those 65 and older who meet qualifications and offers classes such as yoga, water aerobics, Zumba, and more. Silver & Fit offers programs as well as online and home support tools to make health fit anyone’s lifestyle and location. More information on these programs can be found at www.silverandfit.com and www.silversneakers.com.

Getting older does not mean you have to slow down. Taking steps now to ensure an enjoyable and mobile future is easy. Take in the nutrients and protein to build muscle, and get out there and move! Reaching out to the community is the best way to find support in sustaining a healthy life.

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