Senior fitness key to staying healthy longer
Clifford Claiborne understood he couldn’t just stand still. After surviving triple-bypass surgery, he knew his only option for keeping his heart beating strongly was to keep his body moving forward. But like some seniors, Claiborne, 76, hadn’t exercised regularly in some time.
He started going to the Cardiac Rehabilitation Center at Advocate Trinity Hospital in Chicago simply to check it out. When he began feeling better after the first few exercising sessions, he planned to keep coming back until it was no longer worth his time. That was three years ago.
“When we get older, we have a tendency to just be a couch potato and watch sports,” says Claiborne, of Chicago. “That wasn’t going to be good for me. I needed to do the treadmill and bike to just stay healthy. I didn’t want to have any more heart problems.”
Exercise and physical activity are good for just about everyone, especially older adults. When a person stays fit and flexible, they can enjoy an independent life for longer periods of time along with experiencing consistent health benefits. Being physically active can help you continue to do the things you enjoy and stay independent as you age.
By 2025, estimates show there will be more than 89 million people who are 65 years or older, more than double the number of older residents in the United States four years ago, according to the U.S Census Bureau. While Americans are living longer, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are living healthier. Advanced medical technology has prevented the number of deaths from spiking rapidly, but medical officials still say the best way to live your healthiest life remains exercising and eating properly.
“There are countless benefits to exercising,” says Robert Freeman, cardiopulmonary rehabilitation coordinator at Advocate Trinity Hospital. “If seniors don’t stay active, they are more susceptible to broken hips and broken bones because they are not as flexible as they should be.”
Juanita J. Gordon, 81, also suffered from various health ailments, including cancer and triple-bypass surgery. She decided if she ever got a second chance in life, she wouldn’t squander it.
“My doctors told me I was dead on the table for a while before they brought me back. I knew that I had to change and start exercising. It gets me in good spirits,” says Gordon, who uses the rowing machines and exercise bike.
“Exercising improves seniors’ quality of life mentally, emotionally and physically,” adds Freeman. “It makes them feel good about themselves, and when they exercise as a group, they get a chance to socialize and interact with other seniors who motivate them.”
Here are four types of exercises from the National Institute of Aging that seniors can perform:
- Endurance or aerobic activities such as brisk walking or jogging, dancing, swimming and biking increase the heart rate and improve overall fitness.
- Strength exercises such as lifting weights or using a resistance band can help build muscle strength.
- Balance exercises such as tai chi, help prevent falls.
- Flexibility exercises such as yoga stretch the muscles and can help the body stay limber.
About the Author
health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.