There is no denying the fact that physical activity is beneficial to older adults. Following an exercise routine helps strengthen muscles and improve balance, which lowers the risk of injury. If you’re a senior, exercise can add years to your life by reducing your risk of life-threatening conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
But here’s the problem: Exercise itself comes with its own set of risks that are unique to older adults. Studies show that exercise-related injuries are higher in people aged 65 and older,
but that doesn’t mean you should stop hitting the gym! It just means you need to make sure to choose the right exercises and always prepare your body by stretching, training, eating a healthy diet and taking bone and joint supplements.
But how do you know which
exercises are safe and which are off the table? It all depends on your personal history and the shape you’re in right now. Have you had previous injuries? Are you prone to weakness or stiffness in a certain area? Do you have a nagging pain anywhere in the body? For seniors in particular, there is simply no one-size-fits-all approach to exercise. However, there are some notoriously problematic movements you may want to avoid later in life.
Although you need to take your own health history and problem areas into account, consider the list of things below to look out for when developing your fitness plan.
High-impact workouts that involve a lot of jumping or rapid movements can cause serious damage to the joints. Landing on the hard ground at a high speed puts undue pressure on the bones, muscles and tendons. These movements are especially rough on the knees, hips, elbows and shins. We recommend swapping any high-impact activity for one that is much gentler on the joints, such as swimming or using the elliptical.
- High-impact interval training (HIIT)
- Jumping rope
- Jumping jacks
- Lunge jumps
- Running on the treadmill
Some exercises are more likely to cause injury than others. This could be because they’re much tougher to do correctly or because they involve putting a lot of weight on a certain part of the body that’s more prone to injury. You always want to try exercises that protect the back, shoulders and knees as well as any of the parts of your body that may be weaker or were previously injured. Some of the most injury-prone exercises seniors should avoid include:
- Kettlebell or free-weight swings
- Leg presses
- Tackle football
- Rock climbing
- Box jumps
- Bench press
- Weighted squats
Any exercises involving free-weights — including medicine balls and kettlebells — or bench presses should be done with low weights until properly conditioned or under the guidance of a physical therapist or personal trainer. Be careful about body weight exercises too. Simple push-ups or burpees could put too much weight on sensitive parts of the body.
Exercises That Pose Risk to the Heart
Exercise is, without a doubt, good for the heart. Regular physical activity far outweighs the risk that you will experience a cardiac event during or following an exercise session. However, when done with too much intensity, exercise can trigger a few cardiovascular risks. The key is to make sure you are not overdoing it. According to Cleveland Clinic, extreme and high-intensity workouts can cause heart damage
and increase risk of cardiac arrest.
With this in mind, you should not fear exercise, but make sure you are paying close attention to your intensity levels. Listen to your body and know when to stop. If you feel that your routine is too strenuous, stop immediately and take a rest day the following day. Taking heart health supplements
and eating a diet low in sugar and salt could help support the heart and potentially reduce your risk of developing heart disease.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease*
Exercise Options to Consider
Just because it’s on the above list doesn’t mean it’s necessarily off the table for every single senior. There are many ways to reduce pressure on the joints or soften the impact of harmful, repetitive movements. You can also work your way up through training to get to a place where doing the activity is safe.
If you are committed to keeping the above exercises in your routine, consider working with a physical therapist or a trained fitness instructor who can help you make modifications that are better suited to your body and needs. They will also guide you through a training regimen so you get there incrementally.
You may also consider switching to more gentle, low-impact workouts that are generally considered safe for older adults or those with injuries. Here are some of the exercise options that are considered safer for people in these groups:
- Water aerobics
- Using the elliptical
- Tai chi
- Chair exercises
- Resistance band exercises
- Ballroom dancing
Regardless of the activity, be sure you always stretch thoroughly before any session. This will help warm up your muscles and lower your risk of injury. Drink lots of water and take the right athletic supplements
to ensure that your body has the tools it needs to work out safely.
Exercise Options for Seniors
With the above factors in mind, you should be able to put together an exercise routine that is better for you and your specific concerns and needs. The best thing to do when strategizing your workout plan is to speak to your doctor, physical therapist or personal trainer. They will be able to consider your situation and design a regimen that’s totally tailored to you.