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Physical fitness for seniors (Part 1)

As we all seek to age gracefully, physical fitness for seniors is the difference between living a life of health and vitality or dealing with the constant physical limitations of a body that we did not take care of.


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Physical Wellness refers to living a healthy and active lifestyle through exercising regularly, eating a balanced diet and caring for the body.


 Physical fitness for seniors involves four key components:

  1. Strength training is probably the most important element of healthy ageing for seniors because strength training will enable us to maintain muscle mass while at the same time keep our bones strong to prevent breaks, slips and falls.
  2. Endurance exercises help to improve cardiovascular conditioning, keep our heart, lungs and arteries healthy and help us to ward off diseases like diabetes, that can cause circulation problems in our extremities.
  3.  Balance exercises help to reduce the chance of a fall.
  4.  Stretching keeps our bodies flexible, further reducing the possibility of a fall.


By improving these four key components, you will be better off in all phases of your life. The benefits of physical fitness for seniors include:

Weight loss – as we age, it is natural for our metabolism to slow down. A slowing metabolism combined with a reduction in muscle mass as we age leads to weight gain. By exercising, seniors are able to raise their metabolism and keep their muscles strong. 


Strengthen bones – osteoporosis is a persistent problem as we age, especially among women. Exercise not only improves your endurance and strength, but weight bearing exercises also improve the thickness of our bones. This is a big reason why strength training should be a part of your fitness programme.


Strength training is not about using large or heavy weights. Even light or moderate weights have been shown to be effective at strengthening bones.


Improve flexibility and balance – for seniors who can be prone to falling, exercise is a great way to improve your balance and flexibility and reduce or eliminate your risk of falling.


Ward off disease – a regular programme of exercise will lower your cholesterol and reduce your risk of diabetes, stroke, osteoporosis, cancer and heart disease. There are even some studies that have shown that exercise could help prevent or slow down memory loss, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. 


Here are some tips on how you can go about getting started on a programme of physical fitness:

Get a physical – This is especially important if you have not been active for years. It is important for a doctor to conduct a complete physical to make sure that you are strong enough for physical activity.


Start slow – if you have been inactive for a period of time, it will take your body time to adapt to the new exercise routine. This is why it is vital to start slow to avoid muscle strains, soreness or any heart problems brought on by exerting yourself too hard.


Establish your goals – What does physical fitness for seniors mean to you? Are you looking to lose weight, stay strong or be able to keep up with your grandchildren? What you are looking to accomplish in your fitness programme?


Figure out some activities – What do you want to do? There are hundreds of activities to choose from - walking, cycling, dancing, strength training, swimming, hiking, etc. As you seek to figure out these activities, think about yourself and your personality. Do you want to exercise alone or with a group of people (a workout partner can be a great motivator)? This will start the process of steering you towards the ideal exercises.

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