As we age, our bodies undergo physical changes that can impact our activity levels and the way we function day-to-day. However, research suggests that physical decline associated with aging is linked to increased inactivity, rather than aging itself. Starting a regular exercise program can help delay and reduce the effects of aging and even reverse some of the decline that’s occurred already. Cardiovascular exercise, while important at any age, is beneficial to older adults looking to start a fitness routine. In fact, cardiovascular exercise can help lower resting heart rate, reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and help lower the risk of heart disease. In addition, cardio can help with weight management, increase lung capacity, help strengthen bones, and decrease stress and anxiety. Implementing cardio into your daily life doesn’t have to be daunting. According to the American Heart Association, just 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, or 30 minutes for 5 days, can help improve overall cardiovascular health and provide many benefits.
Cardiovascular Exercises for Seniors
The most important element of any exercise routine is that you keep your body moving. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends staying as active as your body allows. This means sitting less and moving more. As you begin to implement cardiovascular exercises into your routine, it’s important to focus on low-impact forms of exercise, and tone down the intensity of your workouts until you build strength and stamina.
Walking is a safe and easy form of cardiovascular exercise that can be done pretty much anywhere. You don’t need to use equipment, however, walking on a treadmill gives you the ability to control difficulty level. Walking on an incline can help build muscle, strengthen the heart, and improve balance. The National Institute on Aging suggests walking in a mall for exercise to avoid environmental factors such as inclement weather and tripping hazards, such as uneven pavement.
Weight bearing cardio and strength training are both important elements of a cardiovascular exercise routine. Weight-bearing cardio exercises, like playing tennis and dancing, not only strengthen your heart and muscles, but also improve bone health, which is especially important for older adults. Strength training is linked to a decreased risk of disease, longer life expectancy and overall well-being. If you plan to add in strength training exercises to your routine, be sure to seek professional help, especially if you are a beginner. A personal trainer can show you effective exercises and proper form to help prevent injury.
Swimming is a low impact cardiovascular exercise that is great for individuals with joint pain and osteoporosis. Water aerobic exercises is also a safe option that allows you to reap the same benefits of other cardiovascular exercises. Group exercises led by an instructor can help keep you safe, accountable and motivated.
What is Intensity?
Cardiovascular exercises can be adapted to meet anyone’s physical ability, but it’s important to consider the frequency and intensity of an exercise before setting a routine. Aerobic or cardiovascular activities elevate the heart rate and strengthen the heart muscles by improving overall cardiorespiratory fitness. Intensity refers to how hard your body is working during a physical activity. As you get stronger, the intensity of a particular exercise can change.
To reap the health benefits of cardiovascular exercise, moderate to vigorous-intensity activities are recommended. Examples of moderate activities include water aerobics, tennis, biking, and brisk walking. These activities will increase your heart rate and cause you to breathe harder, but you should still be able to talk. Vigorous exercise will force you to work a little harder. Sweating and heavy breathing will occur, and you might find it more difficult to have a conversation. These activities include hiking uphill, swimming laps, heavy yardwork, and running. If you prefer vigorous exercise, the American Heart Association, recommends just 75 minutes of activity per week. Remember, it’s important to consult your doctor before adding in new exercises to your routine or preforming vigorous physical activities.
How Should I Get Started?
It’s never too late to improve your fitness level but having a plan in place can help you stay on track to achieve your goals. If you’re wondering make cardio a part of your life, here are a few suggestions to help you get started:
Know your limits
Before you start any new fitness routine, it’s important to get cleared by your healthcare provider. Scheduling an annual physical examination before trying any new exercises will help keep you safe and avoid injury. This would be a good time to ask if any medications you’re taking, especially for blood pressure and heart disease, will affect your ability to exercise. Ask your doctor to identify any symptoms to watch out for during exercise, such as chest tightness, irregular heart beat or joint pain.
Create a plan
If you have an exercise plan put into place, you’re more likely to see better results and stay motivated longer. When your motivation goes away, self-discipline is more likely to kick in if you have a set routine. As you create your action plan, identify which exercises you will do, the intensity level, the length of the workout, and the frequency. For example, you might start with 30 minutes of water aerobics for three days a week and 30-minute walks for the other two days. After four weeks or so, you may need to reexamine your fitness routine and change the level of intensity or add in weight-bearing exercises.
Exercise is not supposed to a daunting task or something we dread to do each day. In fact, it’s important to look at exercise as a way of honoring of our bodies and all they do for us. While walking and swimming are great cardiovascular exercises, another way to stick to your plan is to do activities you love. Playing in the park with your grandkids, dancing, or even doing simple chair exercises while you watch your favorite TV show are great ways to get in some physical activity while also having fun.
Staying Active at The Knolls of Oxford
At The Knolls of Oxford, we offer a variety of ways to add cardiovascular exercises into your daily routine. Regularly scheduled exercise classes and access to local gyms provide residents with multiple opportunities to stay active. To learn more about our offerings or to schedule a tour, please contact us.