Exercise is a great support to have in old age, as it benefits the cardiorespiratory system and emotional health. Here are a few ways to make it a part of your daily routine.
María Francisca Echeverri, Geriatrician
Aging does not have to be associated with people who are crouched over, move slow, are frail in appearance, or who bear its main characteristic: a lack of strength. Geriatrician María Francisca Echeverri states that “While we may have very healthy eating habits, but as we age, it is natural for us to lose our muscle mass, and for our body to succumb to body fat. This takes energy away from us and prevents us from feeling good about ourselves.” The best tool for compensating for this sensation is physical activity.
As Echeverri explains, doing exercise makes us move our bodies at a set pace and gives us the ability to go beyond the movements we normally do. “With this in mind, there is no one exercise routine that the elderly are prohibited from doing: they can all try any type of training.” In addition to staying well hydrated, exercise is an effective way to maintain your balance, improve your attention span and memory, have good digestion and sleep peacefully at night.
Finding opportunities to exercise all the time
The elderly can choose any location to put themselves to the task, and can exercise at home, for example. “While you are organizing your house, or while you shower…all of these activities get the body moving. In the comfort of your own living room, you can take a broom, hold it horizontally and twist your torso from side to side. An umbrella or cane can also be used to do this. I often recommend taking two empty water or pop bottles and filling them with sand or beans. These can turn into a pair of weights, which can increase arm strength…It’s about taking things one step further, being disciplined and having a set routine,” states Echeverri.
Our geriatrician also states that another option is cardiovascular training, especially swimming and water aerobics. “Whether its stretching, walking or jumping in water: we recommend doing anything you can do in a pool.”
For those who are not used to doing exercise and are just beginning, María Francisca recommends doing slow movements, then increasing in intensity. This recommendation also applies to patients who have been diagnosed with an illness or are undergoing medical treatment. “They can work out, unless they have been advised against doing so do due a lung or heart condition, in which case medical supervision is necessary,” states Echeverri.
Body movements can help the elderly become much more independent. When elderly people exercise on a daily basis, this has shown to improve depressive states and feelings of melancholy, especially when they do it together with their peers. “This gives them a mental strength that is reflected in the body’s abilities and energy,” she concludes.
In numbers 150 minutes of physical activity a week is the amount recommended by the WHO. These exercise routines can begin at home.
Other alternatives: yoga, dancing and bowling
There are alternatives out there that allow the elderly to move their bodies in a rhythmic way and stay strong while they learn a new hobby and meet new people, such as with dance and yoga, for example. “Dance is a great way to improve rhythm and motricity. It improves orientation and precision and makes it possible for the elderly to make finer movements. Because of the memory it requires, dance makes them use and train their memory. Ideally, elderly people should dance for two hours a week,” states the geriatrician.
With yoga, Echeverri emphasizes that “It’s much more than just about meditating or holding a pose. Practicing yoga improves balance, flexibility and brings oxygen to the body. It also includes breathing exercises that are very important.”
Our expert states there are other activities out there, such as bowling. While a sport like this may be outdated, “It is actually a very relevant sport that requires a lot of upper body work, precision and helps you calculate distances.”