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Senior Exercise Tips

In a country with an increasing number of individuals being diagnosed with diabetes and/or obesity, it is becoming more and more important for senior citizens to live healthy lifestyles. It's hard enough for a person with a normal metabolism to lose weight or gain muscle; it's significantly harder for a senior citizen to do the same, considering that their anabolic hormones are slowing down more and more as each year goes by.

Exercising Seniors Even though fitness goals may be more difficult to attain, it doesn't mean that they aren't attainable. There are a myriad of ways to get into shape, beginning with walking. Walking is one of the best cardio workouts you can do for your body. It takes little effort, and applies significantly less stress to the body compared to running. After familiarizing your body with frequent walking, it is a good idea to do some anaerobic exercises to start building lean muscle mass (lifting light weights, push ups, pull ups, etc.).

The best formula for getting the most out of walking sessions is to spread them out throughout the day. A small study conducted by George Washington University's lead researcher for public health and health services, Loretta DiPietro, shows that "[w]alking 15 minutes three times a day is better for blood sugar levels than one 45-minute walk." Increasing your blood circulation and heart rate continually throughout the day not only helps lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels, it also increases stamina because of greater oxygen circulation and strengthens the immune system for better defense against disease and infections.

Walking can also prevent diabetes if you carefully choose when you go on walks. Taking a stroll after meals is a great way to prevent blood glucose levels from increasing, especially after dinner time. DiPietro states that "Insulin production decreases [at night], and they may go to bed with extremely high blood glucose levels, increasing their chances of diabetes." It is important to note that eating carbohydrate-rich foods at night, like white rice, pastries, candy, and pasta can significantly increase your blood sugar levels, and it is essential for seniors to avoids large amounts of these foods, or avoid them altogether, during dinnertime. If you do happen to eat these foods, try going out for a late-night stroll or ride a bicycle for a ride around the neighborhood.

Seniors should also focus on building lean muscle mass for increased strength and greater endurance. Try to create a nice balance between weightlifting exercises like dumbbell curls and body-dependent exercises like push-ups. For weightlifting, all you need is 5 to 20 pound dumbbells to perform the following exercises for a complete body workout:

  • Bicep Curls: Rest dumbbells at your sides, then using only your biceps, raise the dumbbell to shoulder level. Repeat to both arms one after the other, 10-15 reps each. 3-4 sets.
  • Tricep Curls: Lift a very light dumbbell straight up with one arm, while the other rests in your lap. Let down and control the dumbbell towards your neck until it is very close or touching the bottom of your neck. Then extend the dumbbell up until it is completely straight again. Once you have done 10-151 reps, repeat with the next arm. 3-4 sets.
  • Benchpress: Laying down on a bench with open sides on the left and right, push dumbbells straight up in the air. Then extend downwards until dumbbells touch the outer part of your chest, or get really close to doing so. From there, push up and as your arms are about to fully extend, move the dumbbells as though you're clapping them together. Repeat 15-20 repetitions. 3-4 sets.
  • Lunges: While holding 10-15 pound dumbbells at your sides when in a standing position, take a large step forward and lean into your leg until it reaches a 90 degree angle. Your rear leg should be close to or barely touching the floor. Then immediately push back with your forward leg (focusing on your quads) until you are standing straight up again. Repeat 10-15 times with each leg. 3-4 Sets.
  • Shoulder Press: Starting in a seated position, lift two 5-15 pound dumbbells and rest them in a 90 degree position, slightly above your shoulders. Then push the dumbbells straight up, and as your arms are about to completely straighten, bring them towards each other. Then bring them down and repeat 10-15 times. 3-4 sets.
  • Crescents: Using a flat bench, kneel with one knee on the bench and lean forward to rest on one arm. Then let a 10-20 pound dumbbell hang from your right or left side, then bring the dumbbell up to the side of your ribcage/chest in a circular motion. Then bring it down to the resting position, and repeat 10-15 times. Switch arms and repeat. 3-4 sets.

To balance out your weightlifting, it is recommended that you also do body-dependent workouts. These workouts allow you to use your own body weight and mass, allowing you to be better coordinated with your own muscles, thus increasing agility and reaction time. Try the following workouts and see if they work for you:

  • Push-Ups
  • Pull-Ups (if able)
  • Sit-Ups
  • Jumping Jacks
  • Squats

These exercises are exceptionally effective at creating muscle mass and increasing your stamina. But what good is having muscles if you aren't limber enough to use them? Stretching exercises help with this problem tremendously, especially those that test your balance. Making sure that your muscles are limber is essential to having increased dexterity when performing daily activities, or having better balance to prevent painful accidents from happening.

Just because you're aging doesn't mean that you have to lose your youthfulness. Staying active is the cure for any symptom of "elderliness" and you too can experience the benefits of physical activities, as long as you keep to it and stay determined to reach your fitness goals!