Top Tips for Getting into Tip-Top Shape

Seniors staying in shape

How to Achieve Your Best Physical State.

When we retire, we often have a bucket list of items to work through now that we have the time to enjoy life to the fullest. For some, it may be improving their golf swing. For others, it might be about learning how to paint or play a musical instrument.

No matter how you plan to spend your golden years, exercise should be a regular part of it. Numerous studies tout the benefits of exercise as we age. Neuroscientists, psychologists, and physicians all agree that exercise is one of the best things you can do for both the body and mind. Studies have shown that regular exercise can reduce the risks of developing Alzheimer’s disease by nearly 50 percent! Not only is it good for the brain, it’s good for the body. Engaging in regular exercise fights obesity and can fight chronic conditions such as arthritis, heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.

Be sure to squeeze in some healthy – and safe – ways to get or stay in shape throughout your senior years. Exercise doesn’t have to be a chore. There are many fun ways to get in tip-top shape, whether you’ve been exercising for years or are just getting around to getting into shape.

Low-Impact Exercises

Getting into shape – or getting enough regular exercise to stay in shape – can be challenging if you are dealing with certain health issues that prevent high-impact cardio or other physical activity.

Low-impact exercises can be just as effective in preventing disease and helping seniors to improve physical stamina. Fining your inner Zen is an ideal way to practice low-impact exercise routines. Yoga and Tai Chi are among some of the best low-impact exercises in which seniors and boomers can engage.

If you are among the 49.6 percent of seniors age 65 or older the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says is currently dealing with arthritis and other diagnosed joint disorders, taking up Yoga or Tai Chi may be just the thing to help those achy joints. Yoga improves balance and stability, flexibility and joint health and can reduce anxiety. Yoga poses can be modified for all levels of practitioners, making them easier or harder depending on your current physical fitness level.

Tai Chi offers similar benefits for seniors and boomers. In addition to providing relief for aching joints, Tai Chi also is a great way to build strength and stamina, especially in the legs, hips, and knees. It also is a great way to improve balance, which can go a long way in preventing falls as we age.

Many senior centers and community centers offer classes in both Tai Chi and Yoga. If you live in a senior retirement community, chances are, Yoga and Tai Chi are part of the exercise program offered there.  Videos also are available if you wish to practice at home, but it is advised to at least work with a professional for a few months if you are a beginner to ensure your form is proper. Using poor form with both Yoga and Tai Chi will not produce the health benefits intended for these activities and can even lead to injury.

Healthy Memberships

Seniors and boomers who are in great physical shape already may wish to join a health club. If you live in a retirement community that has a health club or fitness center, take some time to stop by and check out the programs offered. Not only are health clubs a great way to exercise, they also are a great way to socialize.

If you do not live in a retirement community with a fitness center, one of the best programs offered for senior citizens today is called Silver Sneakers. More than 60 health plans offer the Silver Sneakers program free of charge. To find out if your health plan is one of them, visit the Silver Sneakers website and check for eligibility.

In addition to improving balance, it also is important to build and maintain muscle mass for optimal health as we age. Working with a trainer at the local gym or community center is a great way to create a weight-training program that is ideal for your physical goals. Before working with a trainer, verify that they have certification. There are several associations which administer certification to personal trainers, including ACSM, ACE, NASM, and NSCA. Trainers who have obtained proper certification are well versed in the unique challenges seniors face when training with weights and are able to guide seniors and boomers through weight-training exercises that will enhance and improve muscularity without causing injury.

The cost of gym memberships that are not covered by the Silver Sneakers program vary, but can range from as low as $20 a month to as high as $50 per month. Some gyms offer senior discounts, so be sure to ask!

Thinking Outside the Box

If you are one of those seniors who want to stay active but doesn’t want to spend time in a gym or exercise class to do it, have no fear. There are a number of ways to think outside the box and have fun while staying active and fit.

One of the best ways to stay active and healthy is by walking daily. Walking is low impact, so it’s good for the joints. It also is a proven way to build muscle and help prevent bone density loss. Want to make it more fun? Start a walking club! Exercise is always more fun when shared with others.

Feeling a little friskier? Why not go dancing? Dancing is a proven way to improve both gait and balance and burns more than a few calories, which is great for the cardiovascular system and the waistline. In addition to the physical benefits of dancing, there also are added social benefits. Some senior centers and retirement communities offer dancing lessons and sessions, so find out if yours is one of them.

Live in an area where it’s really hot in the summer and too cold in the winter to safely enjoy being outdoors for long? How about trying out a Wii? This gaming console from Nintendo offers a number of ways to stay active and fit, including versions of tennis, bowling, skiing and even yoga. The Wii also can keep track of your weight and create fitness goals for you.

What are some ways you enjoy exercising as you grow older? We’d love to hear your great ideas in the comments!

Mary Spann

Mary Spann

Mary Spann is the founder and president of Upside of Downsizing®. In addition to her 26 years in construction, interior design, and home staging, Mary also holds college degrees in Social Work and Psychology, making her uniquely qualified to assist with the downsizing process, and helping 50 plus year olds achieve a happy and healthy life balance. Mary learned the key components of construction and interior design at an early age. Her father was a prominent custom home builder in Minnesota and Texas, and her mother was a successful interior designer and a real estate broker.
Mary Spann