Seniors on the Move: Keys to Better Fitness

Last week we told you why physical activity is such a big deal. We also discussed the difference between physical activity and exercise. Both of these are important and will help improve your ability to do the everyday activities you enjoy. We shared four areas of exercise that are the keys to better fitness: Endurance, Flexibility, Strength Training and Balance.

This week we will share with you some specific exercises that will help you improve these four areas.

Endurance,

or aerobic, activities increase your breathing and heart rate. These activities help keep you healthy, improve your fitness and help you do the tasks you need to do every day. Endurance exercises improve the health of your heart, lungs and circulatory system. They also delay or prevent many diseases that are common in older adults such as diabetes, colon and breast cancers, heart disease and others. Endurance building activities include:

• Brisk walking

• Yard work (mowing, raking)

• Dancing

• Jogging

• Swimming

• Biking

• Climbing stairs or hills

• Playing tennis or basketball

Strength

Even small increases in muscle strength can make a big difference in your ability to stay independent and carry out everyday activities such as climbing stairs and carrying groceries. Some people call using weights to improve your muscle strength “strength training” or “resistance training.” Strength exercises include:

• Lifting weights

• Using a resistance band.

Balance

Balance exercises help prevent falls, a common problem in older adults. Many lower-body strength exercises also will improve your balance.

Exercises to improve your balance include:

• Standing on one foot

• Heel-to-toe walk:

1) Position the heel of one foot just in front of the toes of the other foot. Your heel and toes should touch or almost touch.

2) Choose a spot ahead of you and. focus on it to keep you steady as you walk.

3) Take a step. Put your heel just in front of the toes of your other foot.

4) Repeat for 20 steps.

Tip: if you are unsteady on your feet, try this exercise near a wall so you can steady yourself.

Flexibility

Stretching can help your body stay flexible and limber, which gives you more freedom of movement for your regular physical activity as well as for your everyday activities. To increase your flexibility, try:

• Shoulder and upper arm stretches:

1) Stand with feet shoulder-width apart.

2) Hold one end of a towel in your right hand.

3) Raise and bend your right arm to drape the towel down your back. Keep your right arm in this position and continue holding on to the towel.

4) Reach behind your lower back and grasp the towel with your left hand.

5) To stretch your right shoulder, pull the towel down with your left hand. Stop when you feel a stretch or slight discomfort in your right shoulder.

6) Repeat at least 3-5 times.

7) Reverse positions, and repeat at least 3-5 times.

• Calf stretch:

1) Stand facing a wall slightly farther than arm’s length from the wall, feet shoulder-width apart.

2) Put your palms flat against the wall at shoulder height and shoulder-width apart.

3) Step forward with right leg and bend right knee. Keeping both feet flat on the floor, bend left knee slightly until you feel a stretch in your left calf muscle. It shouldn’t feel uncomfortable. If you don’t feel a stretch, bend your right knee until you do.

4) Hold position for 10-30 seconds, and then return to starting position.

5) Repeat with left leg.

6) Continue alternating legs for at least 3-5 times on each leg.

• Yoga

Next week we will discuss getting organized! We will offer tips for setting short and long term goals, choosing activities and fitting them into your daily life!