Men: How to Keep Fit in Your Senior Years

Written by Dave Rich

On September 14, 2012

To stay healthy and active, men need to keep fit in their senior years. Exercise for older people is essential to warding off disease and staying mentally sharp. Even if you haven’t done any physical fitness exercises in a long time, you can get started with these exercises before moving on to other techniques.
Fitness Begins with Nutrition
If you want to keep fit in your senior years, it’s important to understand that physical fitness begins with nutrition. If you aren’t eating a healthy diet, your health will suffer even if you’re exercising regularly. What exactly is a healthy diet?
It depends on your existing medical conditions and your nutritional type. If you don’t know your nutritional type, health expert Dr. Joseph Mercola offers a free nutritional typing test on his website. You’re either a protein type, carbohydrate type or mixed type. Once you discover the best foods for you, you’ll experience a new world of health!
No matter which nutritional type you turn out to be, a healthy diet universally consists of more whole food and less processed food. This means more “live” food such as organic fruits and vegetables and less “dead” foods like French fries and snack cakes.
The Importance of Physical Fitness for Seniors
Physical fitness is important for men of any age. However, it becomes increasingly important as a man enters his senior years. During this time, men are more susceptible to type II diabetes, coronary heart disease, colon cancer, and arthritis. Keeping fit can help keep these ailments at bay, relieve pain, and improve quality of life.
In addition, regular exercise can help you maintain a healthy weight, improve your balance, and keep your mood elevated. It can also stabilize your blood pressure and keep your cholesterol at optimum levels.
Great Exercises for Older People
Older men may avoid certain exercises because of pain or fatigue. There are some great exercises for older people that can be done by virtually any man of any fitness level.
These include:

  • Endurance Exercises

Endurance exercises such as walking, swimming, and biking are a great way to get your heart rate up and increase your overall stamina. If you have done any exercise in a while, it’s important to start out slowly and build up over time. Even if you start out walking for only 5 minutes a day, it’s a start. The same goes for swimming and biking. If you’re concerned about brittle bones and falling while biking, try a stationary bike. You can exercise in the privacy of your home while watching television or listening to music!

  • Stretching Exercises

Stretching is an integral part of exercise for older people. As you age, your flexibility diminishes. To avoid injury during a workout, it’s important to do stretching exercises daily. To strengthen and tone surrounding tissue, try static stretching. This is very easy to do and helps improve overall flexibility. Static stretching is simply stretching a muscle for a prolonged period of time; approximately 10-30 seconds or more.
If you struggle with balance, try doing these exercises in a seated position in a chair or on the floor. To lengthen your hamstrings, sit on a mat on the floor with your legs spread out in front of you. Leaning gently to the left, reach for your left foot with both hands. Hold. If you cannot reach your foot or move more than a few inches at first, that’s okay. Don’t force it. Just move forward until you feel a stretch and hold. Repeat on the other side. Eventually, your flexibility will improve.
To stretch your shoulders and upper back, sit straight up in a chair and stretch your hands high above your head, your fingers pointing to the ceiling. Hold for 10-30 seconds and release. Repeat 5-10 times.
You can stretch any part of your body this way just be sure to warm up before stretching and never bounce into a stretch. Also, if you feel pain, ease up on the stretch. You should feel a bit of lengthening pressure, not pain.

  • Strength Exercises

Strength exercises are a cornerstone of senior physical fitness. You may not be able to pump iron the way you used to, but you can still do some easy lifting to boost your metabolism and improve your overall strength. A few precautions before getting started: First, don’t hold your breath when you lift weights as it could raise your blood pressure. Second, avoid jerky movements when lifting. Slow, fluid movements are best to avoid injury. If you experience pain or extreme fatigue, slow down for a few days and use lighter weights or less repetition the next time you work out.
Again, if balance is an issue for you, do your exercises on a mat on the floor or in a chair. They’ll be just as effective. Start out with light 2-5 pound weights if you haven’t worked out in a long time or if your strength is diminished due to illness.
To do basic arm curls, sit in an armless chair with your feet planted firmly on the floor. Weights should be grasped in both hands with your forearms on your lap, knuckles facing you. Breathing inward, gently pull one arm toward your shoulder, breathing outward, release it back down. Do the same for the other arm. Repeat 5-10 times.
To strengthen your legs and abdominal muscles, sit in a chair with arms, your feet planted firmly on the ground. Using your abdominal muscles, pull your feet upward until you knees are unbent. Hold for 5 seconds. Slowly release back down. Repeat 5-10 times.

  • Balance Exercises

Exercise for older people should always include balance exercises as falls are a common cause of hospital visits and stays for elderly people. Blurring vision, weakening hips, and poor posture are just a few causative factors in senior falls. Improving your balance will mean greater muscle tone and increased walking confidence.
If you’re not confident in your ability stay balanced during these exercises, don’t try to do them alone. Be sure somebody is with you the first couple of times you try these exercises in case you lose your balance.
Here are just two balance exercises for older people:

  • The Single Limb Stance – All you need for this exercise is a steady chair and some non-slip shoes. Start off with two hands holding onto the back of the chair while lifting on foot off the ground. Hold for a few seconds and put that foot down. Try the other foot. Eventually, your balance and confidence will improve so you’ll be able to do this exercise with just one finger on the chair. Then, you won’t need it at all!
  • Knee Marching – Knee marching is a great way to strengthen weak legs and knees. To do it, stand on either side of a steady chair and hold on for support. Lift one knee up as high as it will go. Slowly let it down. Repeat on the other side. Do 10-20 repetitions.

When it comes to physical fitness, exercise for older people can keep both your mind and body sharp. Over time, your strength, stamina, flexibility, and alertness will increase. Your senior years aren’t a time for sitting down in a rocking chair to collect dust; it’s a time to enjoy an active, healthy retirement!

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