As we age, it’s important to find ways to stay healthy and active. Exercise encourages strong bones and muscle strengthening, so it is important to continue to exercise even if our body does not always feel the best. You need to adjust to a new type of lifestyle as you age in order to find out what type of activity or movement works best for your newly aging body.
We can start exercising for healthy aging at any time. In fact, the younger you start doing age-positive movements, the better. Not only will you use the behaviors to encourage a new-found routine and lifestyle, but you will be kinder on your joints, ligaments, and muscles. Your bones will also become accustomed to certain lifestyle changes so that the physical activity is not shocking to your body.
Read on to learn how to exercise for healthy aging.
Why Should We Exercise For Healthy Aging?
As humans age, our body goes through a number of degenerative processes. Aging is natural, and usually it is triggered by the dying lifespan of certain hormones in our body and slowing bodily processes. Human growth hormone, sex-based hormones, and more are produced in fewer quantities, and because of that, our body is unable to keep up (in terms of cell regeneration) and maintain the strength, vigor, and stamina that the bones, muscles, joints, and organic processes required when we were younger.
So as we age we might slow down. You might notice that you are more fatigued in general, even if you had not recently completed any rigorous activity. Or you might notice odd things pop up, like soreness, muscle cramps, bags under your eyes, and so on. We might not notice this slow down until you’ve reached a certain age. And at that time, you’ll also notice things like decreased cardiovascular health, you are moving slower, you are doing fewer activities, and so on.
When we talk about exercising for healthy aging, we are talking about exercises and exercise regimens that are taking into account these natural slow-down processes. You wouldn’t want to wake up one day and realize—wow, I’m not that active anymore! And then decide to run a marathon. Some people might do this, actually, and they’ll find that they are hurting themselves, and are very unprepared for this change.
So as we age, we want to keep exercising at the forefront of our mind so that we don’t forget about this, and in the hopes that this because a new part of our lifestyle. We also want to continue to be active so that we don’t go out and “run that marathon” (metaphorically or literally speaking). Instead, you want to keep active so that your body is preparing itself for the changes that aging brings on.
And lastly, exercising for healthy aging encourages movements that are more forgiving for our joints, cartilage, tendons, and ligaments, reducing the risk of injury as we get older.
Exercises for Healthy Aging
When we look to exercise for healthy aging, recognize that there is no universal exercise that would best suit what you actually need. The exercises provided are merely recommendations.
Some studies suggest that HIIT training is one of the best exercises to do for healthy aging. HIIT, which stands for high-intensity interval training, is a series of exercises that encourages more intense activity in short bursts. After a six-month training study, researchers identified that HIIT and endurance training was more effective for cell growth and cell replication, and in particular telomerase activity when compared to resistance training.
Now when we think of healthy aging, the study above suggests that there are activities that can be done that improve the rate of cell regeneration (which is the process that slows down and thereby affects aging). HIIT might make sense for preventative healthy aging, but it does not necessarily suggest that it is the right choice for currently aging bodies.
If you are an older adult, then you would not want to jump into HIIT training, although easing into HIIT steadily might provide benefits. Instead, consider the following exercising for healthy aging:
- Low impact activities: Low impact activities like swimming, pilates, yoga, and walking might increase the likelihood of an individual working out in general. This is beneficial because as we age, we have slow cell regeneration, greater fatigue, and we need more motivation. Find exercises that your body will enjoy over exercises that your body will feel pain or fight against, therefore encouraging your body to move time and time again.
- Social activities: Humans are inherently social beings. In 2020, we learned that we crave social activities more and more. So, including social activities in your regiment for healthy exercise aging would make sense, as this once again encourages more activity more often. Social activities might encourage us to push harder, so be careful going into social activities if it is your first time back at it.
- More frequent exercises: More frequent bouts of exercise provide our bodies with increased heart rates more often. Studies show that moving about more often, such as standing up at our work desks more often and going for more frequent walks, improves our health, and in particular our cardiovascular health. Therefore, consider an activity that you are more likely to do frequently like yoga in your home, walking up the stairs at your apartment building, or walking your dog.
Now you might be thinking that the above recommendations don’t give you solid ground for starting a healthy aging exercise routine right away.
Well, think again.
Things to Consider When Exercising for Healthy Aging
When considering certain exercises, it becomes easier to find more activities that you might enjoy when you recognize that you are looking for characteristics in exercises rather than the perfect exercises.
By focusing on the following characteristics, you’ll have a better guide to thriving as you age:
- Low impact activities
- Short bursts of activities
- Activities that can be done frequently
- Activities that can be done socially
- Activities that can be done while listening to music, a podcast, or watching TV
- Sometimes paid activities encourage you by showing you an investment in the activity
- Activities with measurable growth
- A movement that you enjoy
- A balanced mixture of activities
Finally, you want to find movement that still challenges you in the following ways: cardiovascular or endurance training, muscular training, and neurological training.
- Cardiovascular training, like walking, running skiing, and biking, will get your heart rate up and reduce the risk of heart attack and heart problems.
- Muscular training, like lifting weights, pilates, and band exercises, will improve your stability, leg strength, back strength, and body’s ability to function normally.
- And finally, neurological training is the type of training that requires you to think a bit. This might include agility work, sports games that require hand-eye coordination and skipping rope.
How to Exercise for Healthy Aging
Exercising for healthy aging is as easy as repeatedly getting up, moving, and trying new things. More often than not, this is usually the hardest part of the equation. Recognize that there is no magic exercise that will make the aging process perfect. Instead, you need to continue to work to find the exercises that you enjoy the most, the ones that you are likely to continue day after day, and the ones that your body enjoys.
Seek out exercises that don’t cost a fortune. Free exercises like standing up from your desk every hour and doing lunges inside are just as annoying and taxing as some of those exercises that we pay hundreds of dollars for. So try to challenge yourself in your home to be more active daily, through little bits of activity.
In the end, healthy aging comes from an improved lifestyle. This means that while you are also improving your activity levels, you are looking for ways to improve the things that you are putting in your body, your mental health, your social health, oh and drinking more water!