December 2021

The Best Types of Exercise for Seniors and Older Adults

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The Best Types of Exercise for Seniors and Older Adults

Think you’re too old to exercise? Nonsense! Take a page from the book of our ever-energetic Jazzercise founder, Judi Sheppard Missett, who still teaches classes and helps us program all of our workouts well into her 70s. Judi isn’t just a rare exercise unicorn. We have members of all ages dancing up a storm in all levels of our classes. In fact, the CDC says, “As an older adult, regular physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for your health.” So, why is exercise for seniors and older adults so important, and what are ideal exercises for older people? We’re glad you asked! 

Why Exercise for Older Adults Is Crucial

As you already know, exercise is a key component of a healthy life at any age, but it’s especially important for older adults. According to the CDC, about one-third of men and half of women over the age of 75 don’t perform any physical activity at all. This sedentary lifestyle could dramatically lower your quality of life -- or even shorten it. Exercise, even low-intensity exercise, like walking and water aerobics, can help:

• Older adults to live independently for a longer amount of time
• Lower the risk of falling and breaking bones
• Lower the risk of heart disease
• Strengthen bones
• Reduce anxiety and depression while improving well-being
• Maintain a healthy metabolism, which naturally slows with age
• Improve the functioning of the immune system
• Improve brain function and lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease
• Increase mobility, flexibility, and balance
• Boost your self-confidence
• Build and maintain friendships and a sense of community when engaging in group exercise classes
• Improve driving
• Possibly extend your life!
• And so much more

And who wouldn’t want all of those benefits—plus some good old fashioned FUN?! 

How Much Exercise Do Older Adults Need?

Of course, exercise for older people can sometimes be difficult due to medical conditions, arthritis, mobility challenges and more. But don’t let these issues hold you back! The CDC states that older adults “should be as physically active as their abilities and conditions allow.” Remember, any amount of activity is better than none.

However, if you are “generally fit and have no limiting health conditions,” the CDC recommends that adults 65 and older perform 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week OR 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity ALONG WITH strength-training sessions twice a week. You can also mix and match, performing moderate-intensity aerobics on one day and high-intensity aerobics on another. Gotta keep it fresh! 

We understand that 150 minutes of exercise (or a half-hour of exercise five days a week) may seem like a lot. But as always, do what you can. If that means a 10-minute walk around the block today, then that’s a great start.

Keep in mind that meeting the CDC guidelines doesn’t mean you have to run on a treadmill every day or start back-squatting with heavy barbells. There are many SO many different exercises for older adults that are challenging, fun and completely accessible to older individuals.

Let’s look at some of the best exercises for seniors that will allow you to enjoy all the great benefits of physical activity. 

Swimming/Water Exercises

Splish splash! If you struggle with mobility and/or painful joints, pool exercises can be an ideal starting point for you. Swimming is often called “the perfect exercise” because it offers an aerobic and resistance workout in one. Depending on your pace, swimming can also be highly relaxing and meditative. 

Other great water options include aqua-walking, aqua-jogging or participating in a water aerobics class.

Walking or Jogging

Walking is one of the simplest ways in which you can get up and start moving. You can choose to walk on a treadmill or get out and explore your neighborhood, local parks and local trails. Just move at a comfortable pace, enjoy your surroundings and make sure to carry water. It also helps to bring along a friend for conversation, accountability and extra safety. (If you go out walking alone, it’s a good idea to tell a loved one where you intend to walk and when you plan to return.) Want to add in a strength component to your walks? Get yourself some lightweight leg and hand weights.
 
If your knees, hips and ankles are feeling up to it, push your pace and try jogging to improve your cardio endurance even more. You’ve got this! 

Yoga

One of the best balance exercises for seniors is yoga, which focuses on improving breathing, flexibility, mobility and body awareness. Through a yoga practice, you’ll improve your core strength and build muscle without putting too much pressure on your joints. And don’t stress -- you don’t have to turn yourself into a pretzel to do yoga! There are many different forms of the practice, from gentle yoga to chair yoga and even classes designed specifically for seniors. Namaste! 

Pilates

Your core is the foundation of your body. It protects your spine, gives power to your upper and lower body and is essential for balance and good mobility. If you’re looking for core exercises for seniors, Pilates is a great option. Pilates focuses on using bodyweight movements to strengthen the core while also promoting balance and body awareness. Pilates, like yoga, can range from easy to highly challenging. Pro Tip: Make sure to take an introductory class when you try it for the first time, and you may also want to wait until you are more comfortable with Pilates before trying a Pilates Reformer, a machine that adds an additional strength-training component.

Resistance Band Training

Looking for low-cost exercises for seniors at home? Get yourself a set of resistance bands. You can use them for strength-training exercises at home. The bands come in a variety of tensions, so you can choose to perform reps with little resistance to improve mobility. Or, if you're up for it, you can use a thicker band to help build more muscle strength. 

Aerobics Classes

Looking to make new friends, get out in the community, and get some exercise? Sign up for a membership at an aerobics studio, like Jazzercise. Most studios offer a range of classes to pick from so that you can choose the one that suits your needs and schedule. At these studios, you’ll also meet our motivating instructors as well as students of every age, fitness level and background. Follow the instructor’s suggestions but as always, make sure to go at a pace you are comfortable with, and feel free to take breaks whenever you need to. Everyone was a beginner once, and you’ll never get any judgement at Jazzercise! 

At Jazzercise, you can find many great classes, including low-impact classes, like Lo, as well as classes that mix dancing and strength training, like Dance Mixx and strength-only classes, like Strength 30/45/60.

It’s Time to Get Moving

You don’t have to be as active as our founder Judi Missett to thrive in your later life. But you do need to move. Whether that means swimming, taking a yoga class or joining Jazzercise, the more you move, the better you’ll feel. These exercises for seniors show that there are many different types of workouts that can fulfill your weekly exercise goals and give you a fun way to stay fit. We hope to see you on the dance floor!

Want more from Jazzercise? Find a location near you and start dancing with us today, or dance with us anytime, anywhere On Demand

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