Exercise Your Body

By Lauren Baumbauer

November 20, 2009 5 min read

It's never too late to get or stay in shape. Staying active through the golden years may help with feeling and looking younger, prevent or delay heart troubles and reduce some physical pains, such as those from arthritis, according to MedicineNet and the Mayo Clinic. It also may help with anxiety, depression and mental awareness.

What are the important types of exercise someone needs in order to gain all of these benefits? According to the National Institutes of Health, there are four main types of exercise seniors need: endurance activities -- such as walking, swimming, biking and even line dancing -- to improve the health of the heart and circulatory system; strengthening exercises, such as weightlifting and band exercises, to increase muscle tissue; stretching exercises to keep the body limber; and balance exercises, such as leg exercises, to increase leg strength in order to reduce the chances of falling.

Interested in finding an activity but not sure what to try or concerned it may be too hard? Most activities meant for seniors are rarely too difficult, and safety is always a primary concern in sports facilities. Always make sure to talk with a doctor before you try any activities. Try these ideas in places with supervision and always at an appropriate level.

A great first step is joining an age-specific gym at which all of the equipment, activities and staff are geared toward seniors. There's also the benefit of a nice social environment and buddies to train with for encouragement.

Nifty after Fifty is one example of a "baby boomer" gym promoting "greater wellness and lasting independence." Nifty after Fifty figures out each person's levels of fitness and needs and then caters the weight equipment and sessions specifically to those levels with high-tech fitness equipment. No thought is needed when it comes to figuring out how much weight should be used or how to position a machine. There are also group fitness classes available. Investigate all of the local gyms for those 50 or older for the best personal option.

Some group classes that are senior-specific, offered at Nifty after Fifty and places like it and even local community centers and gyms, can be a lot of fun with the needed benefits. What are some popular activities to check out?

*Water aerobics: Water exercises and water aerobics are very helpful when traditional exercise is painful. The water supports the body weight, so pressure is taken off the knees and hips. This makes it easier to exercise while increasing muscle tone and endurance. Water aerobics classes are very common and can be found at a local community center or gym with a pool. Take classes with specific exercises and supervision before trying to venture into water exercises solo.

*Yoga: Yoga is a great way to exercise because it focuses on endurance, strength, flexibility and balance, each of the exercise requirements seniors need. There is a variety of types of yoga depending on ability, goals and levels of curiosity. ABC of Yoga says to pay attention to the body and ease into each pose. This will help make the poses comfortable and potentially prevent someone going too far into a pose. ABC of Yoga's Web site (http://www.abc-of-yoga.com) gives a list of poses perfect for seniors, but make sure to take classes and have supervision, especially when just starting. Look up beginner or senior classes at gyms or yoga-specific workout studios.

*Tai chi: An exercise that simultaneously invigorates the body and relaxes it, tai chi is an alternative to more vigorous workouts. Flexibility and balance are main focus points, as well as a feeling of peace. This doesn't happen with most workouts! Also, according to the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, tai chi has been proved to reduce the risk of falling in seniors. Don't be dissuaded by the fact that it is a martial art; slow movements are utilized, so anyone can move with ease. Try a beginner or senior class at a gym or martial arts studio.

*Nintendo Wii: A newer way to exercise, using the video game system Nintendo Wii to stay fit may seem more appropriate for younger generations, but it brings a gentle, low-impact form of exercise to seniors, according to David Dzewaltowski -- a professor and head of the department of kinesiology at Kansas State University -- in Exercise and Sports Science Reviews. Offered at many senior community centers, the Nintendo Wii gives seniors a chance to play the sports they enjoyed when they were younger. It is also a more enjoyable form of physical therapy than traditional methods. A motion-sensitive controller is used, and the games require physical movement to be played. It may be easy to get caught up in the games, so don't forget about any physical limitations, and be sure to have supervision.

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