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Senior Exercises

What should you do for the best results?

The older you are, the more important it is that you exercise. Even moderate exercise can reverse the effects of aging if you do it consistently. It's not just about living longer — but living better — you'll be able to do more of the things you enjoy, with fewer aches and pains, even if you have arthritis.

The only kiss of death is being sedentary. Period! It's really that simple. Start exercising moderately (almost any type of moderate physical activity counts) and do it consistently. Regardless of whether you want the benefits of fitness walking or other exercises, do it now. The best exercises? The ones you'll do on a regular basis.

The sooner you start, the more you'll benefit. There are no guarantees in life, but you can stack the odds in your favor to reduce your chances of ending up in a nursing home.

Remember — you are NEVER too old to start. Many elderly people can't even lift a gallon of milk (it weighs about 10 pounds). But, researchers at Tufts University showed that elderly nursing home residents in their late 80s and mid-90s dramatically increased their strength and improved their balance after just 8 weeks of weight training.

What should you do for the best results? A balanced combination of aerobics, strength and flexibility exercises is very important for physical functioning (increases strength, flexibility and endurance) — and mental functioning (increases blood flow to your brain cells).

Aerobic (endurance) exercises:

Frequency - 30 minutes every other day, 3 times a week

Examples:

Walking (eventual goal: one mile in about 17 minutes), jogging, running, hiking, cycling, dancing, tennis, swimming, gardening, mowing the lawn, golf (if you walk and don't use a cart), climbing stairs instead of using the elevator, workouts on stationary bikes and climbers

Strengthening exercises

Frequency - 30 minutes every other day, 3 times a week

Do strength training on the days you don't do aerobic exercises (8-10 different exercises per workout; 48 hours of rest between strength training workouts is essential)

Examples:

Lift weights (3 sets of 8-12 repetitions, with 30 seconds to 1 minute rest between sets), resistance exercises, calisthenics (push-ups, crunches, etc.), resistance tubes and bands

Stretching / flexibility - 10 minutes every other day (at the end of your workout)

Gently stretch each of your major muscle groups, including your arms, legs, back, shoulders and trunk, for about 30 seconds, with 3 or four repetitions for each major muscle group. Don't bounce and don't stretch until it hurts.

Finally, if your exercise program is a success, you'll improve your odds of staying out of a nursing home. For some tips for success, click here.

For more information about senior exercises, an excellent online "booklet" has been prepared by the National Institute on Aging and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The booklet includes a drawing (some are animated) for each exercise showing how to do it properly. To go to the booklet, click on Senior Exercises.

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