Staying active is proven to improve health and longevity for seniors. A study of 6,000 adults conducted at Brigham Young University found cellular changes in people who are physically active. Those who exercised regularly had longer endcaps on chromosomes compared to those who were inactive. This translated to a difference of approximately nine years in cell aging.
Another study focused on the muscles, lungs, and hearts of adults. Participants included one group of inactive 70-year-olds, a group of active 70-year-olds, and a group of active 40-year-olds. Researchers found that the vital organs of the active 70-year-olds were comparable to those in the 40-year-old group.
If a longer life isn’t enough reason to exercise, consider how it can improve your comfort and quality of life. Active people have improved sleep, stronger immune systems, better digestive function, and get the anti-inflammatory benefits of exercise.
If you are living in a retirement community or plan to move into one soon, you should consider the following tips to help you stay active and healthy during your Golden Years.
Start Slow and Build Up
Everyone starts at a different place when getting fit and becoming more active. Some people may be trying to break away from a very sedentary lifestyle. Make sure you start at a pace that’s based on your ability.
You don’t have to exercise for hours a day to make a difference. Just 150 minutes per week has been shown to increase life expectancy by approximately seven years. Make small changes and gradually introduce more activities and exercise to your day.
Make Daily Changes
Consistency is important if you want to have a lasting effect on your lifestyle. Even if it’s a short walk, make sure you stick with it. It’s much better to do something – no matter how small. Not only is this good for your body but helps make positive changes a habit.
You should also consider the mundane decisions you make daily. For example, if you aren’t a high fall risk, consider taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Or take a short detour around your retirement community to get more steps in. These decisions should be made with your ability level and safety as a top priority.
Have Activity Goals
It’s difficult to be successful if you don’t know what success looks like for you. You can do this by setting goals.
Your goals will be different from those of others. For some people, it could mean losing weight. For others, it could be committing a certain length of time to physical activity each week or getting in a predetermined number of steps. It could even mean being able to do something you love again.
Monitor Your Progress
Monitor progress as you work towards your goals. This will help you determine if your current plans are working or if you need to make changes. Just remember to not get too focused on things that can take time, like weight loss.
Celebrate the big milestones but also pat yourself on the back for the success of smaller steps as you make progress. This is a good way to encourage yourself and avoid becoming frustrated when working toward long-term activity goals.
Motivation can make or break your physical fitness plans. Find ways to keep yourself interested and motivated. A good way to start is to choose activities that you enjoy. A basic workout video is one way to do it but can get stale and make motivation drop. As an alternative, consider trying something more exciting and engaging like dance or a sport. Also, remember to step back and appreciate your progress along the way.
Inform Your Doctor
Your doctor should be your partner in this process. Keep them informed of your plans and progress. They can let you know if there are ways to improve your efforts or advise you of any health concerns.
It’s best to consult your doctor before you begin to make sure you aren’t putting yourself at risk. Some exercises aren’t recommended for seniors, like squats with weights, long-distance running, high-intensity interval training, and deadlifts. Your doctor can let you know if you should or shouldn’t avoid these and other activities based on your individual health status.
Exercise with Others
Exercising with others is a good way to make the experience fun while holding yourself accountable. Just one fitness partner can have a positive impact on your routine. You can also look for groups of seniors doing activities, playing sports, or gathering for workouts.
The global pandemic forced many people to social distance, which makes group exercises nearly impossible. As an alternative, you can try video chats or online classes. These provide social interaction and accountability in the safety of your home without the infection risk.
Try Something New
It’s never too late to try something new! Changing your routine can also boost motivation. If you haven’t already, consider trying out something you always wanted to or explore options you haven’t considered before.
Have you ever played bocce ball? Want to try your hand at tennis? You could also look for new places to hike or walk in your area that you may have never visited before. This is a great time to get out there engage in new experiences while you get fit.
Follow Community Events
Most retirement communities host events that can present lots of opportunities for activity. See what’s coming up. Many may offer exercise sessions that will help you get to know your neighbors while staying fit. Take full advantage of the benefits of living in a retirement community, starting with the events calendar.
Plan Indoor Activities
When some people think about getting fit, they only think of outdoor activities. Don’t forget to include indoor activities in your schedule. These can provide an alternative in case you can’t go outside due to weather conditions.
This is especially important for seniors who live in areas with cold, snowy winters. You should plan around seasonal changes, or you could spend half of the year inactive – which isn’t good for your mind or body.
Pick Up a New Hobby
Some hobbies can also serve as physical activities! For example, gardening is a great way to do something you enjoy and stay fit. Moving around, digging in the soil, sowing seeds, and watering the plants requires physical movement. Gardening is also a great reason to go outside and get fresh air and vitamin D-filled sunshine!
Many seniors love technology just as much as younger people do. Break away from the stereotype and discover the physical benefits of today’s technology. Some assisted living communities have introduced virtual reality to engage residents.
Take a virtual exercise class or use other technology like fitness trackers, medical alert devices, or smartwatches. These can help you exercise safely, tracking your progress, and keep you motivated.
Start working toward an active lifestyle today and enjoy a long, healthy life doing the things you love!