Benefits of Exercise for the Elderly
Many people think that exercise is not good for the older adult. I’ll admit that at one time I was one of those people who thought older people were too weak or too frail to exercise. The reality is that there are many benefits of exercise for the elderly. Exercise can help maintain independence, decrease the risk of falling and injury, prevent and delay disease, decrease stress, decrease the chance of dying from diabetes, high blood pressure and coronary artery disease and improve overall health.
There are four basic categories of exercise: balance, strength, flexibility and endurance. As you can imagine, balance is very important in preventing falls and possible injury. Strength is needed to walk, stand, and transfer. Flexibility is necessary to maintain range of motion to arms, legs and back as well as decrease the effects of arthritis. And, endurance assists in keeping the lungs, blood vessels and heart strong.
There are quite a few formal exercise programs and classes available. Most YMCAs have classes for older adults that may include water exercise, yoga, stretching classes, walking clubs and more. Many counties have a recreation and aging center and may offer classes like Zumba and strength training. These are great for the person who can get out and participate in these programs.
For someone who doesn’t have transportation to these centers, there are many things that they can do in the home that provide exercise. A simple source of exercise is walking, and it is not stressful on the joints. For an older adult, this doesn’t have to mean walking a marathon. Simply as walking to the mailbox or around the yard can be considered exercise.
Housework can be a form of exercise that we don’t usually consider. Think about the movements it requires to sweep the floor or rake the yard. Not only are the arms and legs used but the body’s core is engaged. These include the muscles in the abdomen, lower back, pelvis, and hips. These muscles are very important for stability and balance.
If mom wants to wash the dishes or sweep the floor, good for her. One rule of thumb I follow is that if someone can do something (and do it safely), let them. We all need activity as well as a sense of purpose. We want to feel needed and useful. Just watch to make sure they are not getting too fatigued.
So, what if mom is in a wheelchair or can’t get out of bed? There are many exercises she can do from these places. A few exercises are wrist curls, arm curls, circles and raises, leg raises, arm, and leg extensions, sit-ups, and toe touches while sitting. There are countless videos available online for exercises that she can do at home.
For more exercises and instructions you might want to go to the National Institute of Health website. The National Institute on Aging has an exercise and activity campaign called “Go4Life”. Go to the “Go4Life” tab at the top of their website to find information on nutrition, exercise, and safety. You’ll see, there are many benefits of exercise for the elderly.
Attention: Before anyone starts an exercise program, they should check with their doctor.