As a senior person, it can be difficult to keep fit and healthy. Injuries and vulnerabilities make certain exercises very difficult, and you might find that your energy levels are getting lower.
However, there are still plenty of exercises that are ideal to help seniors keep fit and stay at a healthy weight.
Cardio exercise is the most effective way to stay fit and lose weight.
It also helps to strengthen and tone your muscles, and can improve your mental health by lifting your mood and increasing the levels of serotonin in your brain.
But what are the best cardio exercises for seniors? We have put together this useful guide with all the information that you need to know on cardio exercises for seniors. Keep reading to find out more.
High Impact Vs Low Impact
High impact exercises like running are often thought of as the most effective way to lose weight.
However, high impact exercises are not always suitable for seniors. They put a lot of pressure on your joints and can be harmful to previous injuries or vulnerable areas of the body.
Low impact exercises are much better for seniors who are looking to keep fit. They will be gentle on the joints, but still provide an effective way to elevate their heart rate and get their body moving.
Let's have a look at some of the best low impact cardio exercises for seniors.
How Much Cardio Should You Do?
As a senior you don’t want to over do your exercise and end up causing yourself further problems.
It is best to start slow and build from there, learning the limits of your body as you go. Take rest days in between to give your body a chance to recover.
If you find that you are in pain, dial down the exercise and see how you feel. Don’t be afraid to stop if you are feeling tired or dizzy – any exercise is better than nothing.
As you get fitter you will be able to make your workouts longer or more challenging.
If you are unsure what kind of exercise to do and how much is safe, it is best to speak to your doctor to get some advice.
What Are The Benefits Of Cardio?
Taking part in regular cardio exercise has lots of benefits. The main benefit is that it makes your heart stronger – your heart is a muscle that can be trained just like any other muscle on your body.
As your heart gets stronger, your fitness will improve. This makes you more able to carry out daily tasks and to take part in different activities, allowing you to live life to the fullest.
Cardio exercise is great for weight loss and weight management. As you get older your metabolism slows down which can make it difficult to maintain a healthy weight.
Regular cardio exercise combined with a healthy diet will keep you in peak physical condition.
Cardio exercise can also help to lower cholesterol, reduce your blood pressure, increase your sensitivity to insulin, improve your lung capacity, reduce your risk of heart disease, and improve your mood by decreasing stress and anxiety.
With all of these amazing benefits, there is no reason to delay starting your own cardio exercise routine.
It might sound simple, but there is nothing better than walking when it comes to low impact cardio.
Make sure you have a comfortable pair of shoes that offer good support to your feet and ankles.
Stick to even surfaces like pavements and footpaths to avoid falling, and walk with a friend if you are worried about going alone.
You can take the walk at your own pace, but keep in mind that a brisk pace will help to increase your fitness and burn calories much faster.
You can tackle some gradients and steep paths if you feel up to it, or stick to flat routes. The great thing about walking is that you are in control – you can say, where, when and how difficult you want it to be.
Remember to engage your core and gently swing your arms to get a full body workout.
Walking with the right posture will not only make the exercise more effective but will also protect you from strains and injuries.
Swimming is an excellent low impact exercise for seniors, especially if they have joint problems.
Even people with mobility issues who have issues bearing their own weight can benefit from swimming. The water takes on a portion of your body weight, making you float freely through the water.
You can try swimming a gentle stroke like breaststroke. You can even have a go at pool walking, as the resistance of the water will help you to build your strength. Aqua aerobics is also very popular with seniors.
If you are concerned about slipping in the pool or on the side of the pool, then you can wear pool shoes to give you more grip.
Make sure you use the handrails provided when getting in and out of the pool to reduce the risk of falling.
Cycling is ideal for seniors who are confident with their balance, as it is an extremely effective cardio workout that doesn’t put much weight or pressure on your joints.
If you stick to flatter, gentle cycling routes then it can be a suitable form of cardio even if your fitness level is low.
Make sure you wear a helmet and that you are confident with how to operate the bike before you take it out. Start simple with a lap around the block and build from there.
Cycling is a great way to explore and travel further distances than you would if you were walking. It can also be a social activity if you go cycling with a friend.
Yoga, Pilates And Thai Chi
If you are looking for something that is low impact and can be modified to suit your level of fitness and flexibility, then you could benefit from yoga, Pilates or Tai chi.
They are all different forms of exercise, but what they have in common is a focus on breathing, connecting your mind and your body, and moving at a gentle pace.
These exercises will help you to build strength and flexibility, without straining your body.
If there are movements that you find difficult, there are plenty of modified movements you can do that will suit your current ability level.
It is never too late to start one of these exercises, and you will be surprised at the difference it can make.
Simple Cardio Workout
Another exercise that is great for seniors is a simple cardio workout that you can do at home or in your garden. All you need is a comfortable pair of shoes and some comfortable clothes.
Start by gently stepping from side to side. concentrate on making your steps even and controlled. When you feel comfortable, lift one arm at a time.
You can either lift the opposite arm to the leg you are using, or the same, depending on what feels most natural to you.
Lift your arm above your head and bring it back down. This will help with coordination, but will also make your heart work harder by sending blood to your upper limbs and lower limbs at the same time.
Remember to take it at your own pace. You only need to go as fast as you feel comfortable. You can put some music on if it helps.
Build in some other exercises, like a simple box step to the front, or marching on the spot using your arms.
If you want to work on your flexibility, include some knee taps or even toe taps. Incorporate some backwards steps as well as this will help with variety but also balance.
It is very easy to put together a simple routine out of movements like this, and you can make the movements as simple or complex as you want to.
This is great for a rainy day when you can't get out for a walk, as you can do it in your living room.
If you struggle with mobility and supporting your own weight, that doesn't mean you can't exercise.
In a comfortable chair, lift your arm up above your head and then bring it back down. Repeat this with the other arm, and continue lifting alternate arms.
Next, lift your arm straight out in front of you, switching between alternate arms. Finally, stretch each arm out to the side of you.
You can combine all of these movements in order to create a simple workout that will elevate your heart rate and tone your arms.
Being a senior doesn't mean that you have to stop exercising. There are plenty of low impact cardio exercises which are suitable to seniors and will help them to keep fit and healthy.