It's no secret that staying active as you age is an important part of improving and maintaining your overall health and wellness. The amount you exercise is directly related to preventing heart disease and other high-risk health issues. However, finding new and engaging ways to be fit often feels like a constant challenge. To add some variety to your activity regimen, check out these seven great types of exercise for older adults. You'll quickly see that staying active can be both fun and enjoyable. 1. Swimming Swimming is a great form of exercise for people of every age due to its great cardiovascular benefits. However, swimming is an activity that older adults can particularly enjoy because of it's low-impact nature. It's easy on the joints and will help you build up all three major components of your physical health -- flexibility, strength, and cardiovascular endurance. Additionally, the coordination involved with swimming strokes (freestyle, breaststroke, etc.) has been linked to better balance as you age. This can help prevent falls and improve one's core strength and sense of stability. 2. Yoga Actively working to stay flexible as you age is key to your overall health. Yoga helps you improve your flexibility, while also strengthening and lengthening the various muscle groups throughout your entire body. In addition to the physical benefits of yoga, the mental practice will help keep you sharp. Focusing on the breath and being present in your practice are great skills to develop at any age, but especially in your older years. Trying taking a yoga class at a local studio, or trying out a DVD in the comfort of your own home. The YouTube video below will guide you through a roughly thirty minute, gentle yoga practice designed for older adults. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i6eKyjA8ER4 3. Walking In addition to flexibility and strength, cardiovascular endurance is another important skill to continue to work on as you age. Walking is a great calorie-burning exercise and helps you maintain mobility. While walking is, overall, very beneficial to your health, you might try walking on surfaces other than concrete (like sand, grass, or gravel) to help lessen the impact on your joints. Walk on your own, with friends, or keep it lively by joining a walking group. You'll be so busy chatting, you'll forget you're even exercising. 4. Weights Maintaining bone density and muscle strength becomes harder and harder the older you get. Being consistent about a weight and/or strength-training regimen can help combat this loss and its detriment to your overall health and wellness. Working in light weights to your everyday activity regimen doesn't have to be hard. If you're going for a walk, try carrying light hand weights (2-3 lbs), or using light ankle weights for an extra challenge. Likewise, if you're swimming or doing yoga, try getting into the habit of doing some light weight repetitions once you're done with your cardio session. A few minutes of bicep curls and other familiar repetitions could make a big difference in the long run. 5. Tai Chi Like yoga, Tai Chi is a gentle form of exercise with great health benefits, especially at an older age. Tai Chi is commonly referred to as "meditation in motion". Because of it's meditative components, its often said that the mental benefits of the practice are just as beneficial as the physical. If you're used to a faster paced form of exercise, Tai Chi might test your patience. This could be a good thing. Although it might not feel like it, the slow movements in Tai Chi will test your balance, flexibility, and strength -- the three most important elements of overall physical health. New to Tai Chi? Great! This article will give you a gentle introduction to the meditative movements of the practice, and will help you get started with your own Tai Chi regimen. 6. Stretching While exercises like yoga, Tai Chi, and swimming will help improve your flexibility, taking the time to actually stretch is the best way to increase overall flexibility. Maintaining flexibility will help, as you age, with your overall range of motion and mobility in your joints. There's a variety of great stretching exercises you can do on your own, with a friend, or even in a class. A few tips in regard to stretching:
- Always warm up your muscles before you stretch them. This could mean taking a walk around the block, or simply climbing up and down your flight of stairs at home.
- Aim to stretch at least two to three days per week, and hold each stretch you perform for at least 30 seconds.
- When deciding which stretches to perform, aim to hit all major muscle groups in the body. The YouTube video below is a great guide to beginning your weekly stretching routine.