The many benefits of exercise are well documented. Besides aesthetic considerations and overall fitness, physical activity can help prevent the onset of dementia, as well as increase life expectancy and protect against stroke and heart disease. However, as we age, our body requires that we become more intelligent about how we exercise. For those who already lead active lives as well as those looking to begin a routine, here are twelve tips and suggestions for how to properly care for an active older body.
1. Warm-up. Every routine should begin by increasing blood flow. Just walking at a brisk pace can be enough to raise your muscle temperature to exercising levels. Other common methods are elliptical trainers, treadmills and light jogging.
2. Squat more. Many kinesiologists say that the squat is the single best way to prevent injury as well as keep up leg and back strength. Make sure to keep your back straight, feet shoulder-width apart, and go till your thighs are nearly parallel with the floor.
3. Build your core. Without a solid foundation, other muscles are easier to strain. To build a strong core, try exercises like the plank where you stay in a push-up position on your forearms.
4. Work on balance. Maintaining your sense of equilibrium can prevent against many lower-body injuries. Practice standing on one leg several times throughout the day. You can make it more challenging by using an uneven surface or standing with your eyes closed.
5. Watch your Achilles. Achilles tendons lose elasticity as they age. To protect against injury, stretch it out before any activity by putting one leg behind you with your heel touching the ground and leaning against a wall.
6. Know when to ease up. Be aware of your aches and pains. Older adults do not recover from minor tweaks as quickly, so avoid over-doing it so as to avoid major damage.
7. Pay attention to your shoulders. As you age, your shoulder joints become more brittle and thus more prone to tears. Work on increasing strength by doing arm circles as well as raising your extended arms sideways up to shoulder height.
8. Take charge of your post-workout routine. Muscles need proper nutrition to fully recover from exercise. Providing your body with an immediate source of protein and carbohydrates, such as chocolate milk, will aid recovery.
9. Take care of your feet. Plantar fasciitis, inflammation of the foot’s connective tissue, is a common malady for active older adults. Use something like a golf ball to roll under your foot, loosening the arch and other areas.
10. Incorporate strength training. Many studies indicate that strength training increases muscle mass as well as joint strength. Start out with light weight and more repetitions.
11. Stretch wisely. Stretching has been a controversial subject over the past decade. But regardless of what time of day is best, the important part is doing it. Try stretching while watching television or before sleep.
12. Know when to take time off. Older bodies recover more slowly, so knowing when to take a day off is crucial to overall wellness. At least one day off a week is recommended, but paying attention to how you feel is more important than any exercise routine.
Exercise, like life, requires balancing many considerations. Make the most out of your workouts so you may enjoy them for a very long time.