Staying active at any age is an essential part of being healthy, but it only gets more important the older you get. How active you are has a big impact on how much independence you have and how much you suffer from aches & pains. However, the big difference between staying active in your younger years and now is HOW you exercise. To safely stay active in ways that are beneficial to your goals as an older adult it’s important to know what exercises seniors should avoid and have safe alternatives to replace them.
The Benefits Of Exercise For Seniors & Older Adults
- Helps prevent disease by strengthening immune system
- Lowers the risk of falls by building strength
- Creates stronger bones by building bone density
- Reduces pain, stiffness & inflammation
- Keeps your heart & lungs healthy
- Improves balance & stability
- Improves mobility
- Reduces joint pain & stiffness
- Improves functional strength for daily activities
- Makes it easier to walk, lift, reach & bend
Essentially, you need to exercise because that old cliche is true: “If you don’t use it, you lose it.” Exercising ensures you’re using your muscles, bones & joints which prevents them from stiffening up, weakening and allowing aches & pains to take over.
What Exercises Seniors Should Avoid
Going For Long Runs
Why? Because every step you take puts stress & pressure on your joints. When you run it compacts your joint even more. Avoiding running is the best way to avoid the joint pain that it causes.
What to do instead: Gentle chair cardio. This is a low-to-no impact way to get your heart rate up without hurting your joints (or risking a stumble and fall).
Doing Crunches & Sit-Ups
Why? First of all, because it involves getting down on the ground and that can be difficult for some older adults. But more importantly, because these types of core exercises place too much stress on the neck & spine, which isn’t as strong as it used to be.
What to do instead: Core Pilates. Pilates gently strengthens your deep core muscles in a safe and supportive way (and there are ways to do it from a chair!) Learn more about “Chair-Assisted Core Pilates” (Click Or Tap Here)
Participating In HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training)
Why? Many older adults have breathing or heart conditions which makes high intensity cardio activities unsafe. It may also increase the risk of a heart attack or a stroke if your cardiovascular system can’t keep up.
What to do instead: A gentle cardio routine designed for older adults like Fit & Fabulous Over 55. To learn more about “Fit & Fabulous Over 55”—Click Or Tap Here.
Using A Barbell To Do Deadlifts
Why? Although barbell deadlifts are a great exercise from strengthening your legs, hips, core & upper body muscles all at once, it carries a high injury risk. If you perform any part of it improperly, you risk hurting your knees, spine or lower back because of the extra weight.
What to do instead: Simply perform the deadlift movement without the barbell, using your bodyweight only. Or put a pair of light dumbbells on a chair to shorten the distance & weight.
Doing Leg Presses On A Machine
Why? Leg press machines can put a lot of pressure on your legs & knee joints that your body might not be able to handle. You’re laying on your back with your knees bent, trying to push against the weight which can also strain your back if the weight is too heavy.
What to do instead: Switch out the machine for a resistance band. Simply lay on the ground with your legs in the air above you and the band looped around your feet then perform the press. It’s gentle and you’re in complete control of the intensity.
Why? Similar to HIIT, doing stairs is a more intense exercise that requires a lot of heart & lung strength which you might not have. It’s also harder on your joints and comes with a high risk of falling.
What to do instead: A gentle conditioning program that mixes cardio with strengthening exercises like squats. Try something like “Light Total Body Conditioning” (Click Or Tap Here)
Why? Squats are a fantastic exercise that you definitely SHOULD be doing. This exercise works wonders on improving your ability to walk, stand, get out of chairs & take the stairs. However, using HEAVY weights not only puts more pressure on your joints, but it can easily knock you off balance and cause a fall.
What to do instead: Chair or chair-assisted squats. The chair adds support & stability so you can still get all the benefits of one of the best exercises for improving your physical abilities. Using dumbbells is okay, but just remember you’re not trying to bulk up like the 20 year olds, so keep them light! And stay away from barbells.
Now that you know what exercises seniors should avoid, you might be wondering what’s the very best way to make sure you’re always exercising as safely as possible for your age. To take all the worries out of working out it’s easiest to just follow along with an instructor who knows what to do.
One of the safest & easiest fitness classes for older adults is Gentle Chair Pilates. Check it out by clicking the link below.