By Angie O’Connor
Avera Sacred Heart Hospital Community Wellness Coordinator
Do you hope to maintain quality of life as you grow older? Is it important that you’re able to perform your daily tasks, enjoy your recreational activities, and care for yourself? You probably would like to stay fit, trim, strong and mobile for as long as possible. You can do more than just hope for these qualities as you age since many of the symptoms of old age are actually symptoms of inactivity. For example, muscle weakness, balance problems, bone loss, and sluggish metabolism are changes that are associated with aging, but are not exclusively caused by it. Making exercise a part of your regular daily routine can help improve your physical and mental well-being.
What kinds of exercise improve health and ability? There are four different types of exercises that help older adults improve overall health conditions. Strength exercises are geared to make your muscles stronger. Having stronger muscles means having more strength to do things on your own. Even very small strength gains can make a big difference in day-to-day abilities. Strength exercises also increase your metabolism, helping to keep your weight and blood sugar in check. That is especially important since obesity and diabetes are major health concerns for older adults. Also, studies suggest that strength exercises may help reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Strength exercises can be done through lifting weights and/or working with resistance bands.
Cardiovascular exercise is a type of exercise that will increase your breathing and heart rate. This type of exercise will help improve the health of your lungs and heart. It will give you more energy for the tasks you need to do to live and do things on your own, such as climbing steps and grocery shopping. Some examples of cardiovascular exercises are walking, biking, rowing, or any other activity that raises and sustains the heart rate for a period of time. Activities such as these not only aid in weight loss, but also may delay or prevent many diseases associated with aging, such as diabetes, colon cancer, heart disease and stroke.
Balance exercises help prevent falls, a common problem in older adults. Falling can cause broken hips and other injuries that often lead to loss of independence. Some balance exercises build up your leg muscles, while others require simple activities such as briefly standing on one leg.
Flexibility exercises help keep the muscles and joints in your body limber through stretching activities. The more flexible you keep your body, the less prone to injuries you are.
No time is a better time than now to get your body in better physical shape. Start by choosing an activity that you will enjoy doing, and maybe find a friend to exercise with you. When beginning, ease into a program, have fun, and let the benefits of exercise keep you going strong.
Avera Sacred Heart Wellness center offers over 150 group exercise classes per month. Many of these are specifically for seniors including our SilverSneakers® and Senior Toning classes. Arthritis water aerobics, general water aerobics and gentle yoga are great options as well. Call 605-668-8376 to see if you’re eligible for a free Wellness Center Membership through the SilverSneakers® program.