The key to staying young

4 Building Blocks of Senior Fitness

Regular exercise helps maintain one’s health. Staying physically active can help prevent and reduce the impact of illness and chronic disease. The benefits of exercise for seniors include improved heart health, lower blood pressure, stress reduction, and better bone density. It also lowers the risk of several chronic conditions including memory disorders, diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis, and colon cancer.

It is never too late to start exercising. Research shows that exercise and physical activity can help maintain strength, balance, flexibility and endurance. Mixing different types of exercise helps reduce monotony and improves overall health. Here are the four building blocks of senior fitness and how they can help your body.

1st building block: Cardio endurance exercise

  • What is it: Uses large muscle groups in rhythmic motions over a period of time. This type of exercise increases your body’s ability to deliver oxygen and nutrients to tissues while removing toxins and waste. Cardio workouts get your heart pumping.
  • Why it’s good: Helps lessen fatigue and shortness of breath. Promotes independence by improving endurance for daily activities such as walking, house cleaning, and errands. Cardio includes walking, stair climbing, swimming, hiking, cycling, rowing, tennis, and dancing.

2nd building block: Strength training

  • What is it: Builds up muscle with repetitive motion using weight or external resistance from body weight, machines, or elastic bands.
  • Why it’s good: Helps elderly people prevent loss of bone mass, increases joint stability and integrity, builds muscle, and improves balance—both important in staying active and preventing risk of falling. Building up strength will help seniors stay independent and make day-to-day activities easier such as opening a jar, getting in and out of a car, and lifting objects.

3rd building block: Flexibility

  • What is it: Challenges the joints’ ability to move freely through a full range of motion (ROM). Can be done through static stretches (stationary), and ballistic stretches (moving or bouncing) to keep muscles and joints supple so they are less prone to injury.
  • Why it’s good: Helps body stay limber and increases range of movement for ordinary physical activities such as looking behind you while driving, tying shoes, and shampooing your hair.

4th building block: Balance

  • What is it: Maintains standing and general stability under a variety of conditions including static (stationary) and dynamic (moving) balance.
  • Why it’s good: Improves balance, posture, and quality of walking. Also reduces risk of falling and fear of falls. Research shows that 20% of seniors fear falling. Try yoga, Tai Chi, and posture exercises to gain confidence with balance.

Get medical clearance before starting any exercise program. Start slow, try 10 minutes twice a day. Make sure to warm up, cool down and always keep water handy. Contact your doctor immediately if you feel dizzy, short of breath, or develop chest pain or pressure.



BIO: Susan Kane is a board-certified sports physical therapist at Lakeland Regional Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine Clinic, who brings 12 years of experience in physical therapy and athletic training, with a special focus on sports medicine. She has previously worked for both the University of South Florida and Florida Southern College, and has taught courses on orthopedic disabilities and rehabilitation at FSC and PSC Winter Haven.

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