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Senior Health Spotlight: How Much Exercise Do You Really Need?

Can a daily walk improve your health? According to Yale University, the answer is yes, especially for seniors.

Walking for 20 minutes a day has been shown to prevent injury and enhance quality of life. Studies have also found that people who exercise regularly don’t age as rapidly, take fewer medications, and have improved immune systems, muscle mass and cholesterol levels.

How much exercise do adults need to see these benefits?

All adults need 150-300 minutes each week of moderate-intensity physical activity. That means most people should aim for:

  • At least 5 hours per week, and
  • Ideally 5 hours or more.

That could be any combination of activities that increase a person’s heart rate, such as brisk walking, swimming or riding a bike.

How long do seniors need to exercise?

For adults 65 and older, 2.5 hours a week is a good goal. Seniors should also note 2 things:

  1. Activities that are aerobic, improve balance, and build muscle are especially important to help reduce the risk of falls. Many recreational activities allow people to get all 3 types of exercise at once, such as dancing, yoga, tai chi or gardening.
  2. People can hit their 2.5-hour goal with any combination of activity over any number of days. Previously, experts thought adults needed to exercise for at least 10 minutes at a time to see health benefits, but now they agree any length of time is fine — as long as people exercise consistently.

7 tips for getting started

1. Start small

Focus on small activities such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or parking farther away from the door at the grocery store. Exercise can be as simple as taking a brisk walk, which will get your blood pumping and boost your mood.

2. Consider a fitness tracker

If you’re not sure whether you’re getting your heart rate up enough for it to count as exercise, consider a wearable fitness tracker so you always know where you stand.

3. Try low-impact

If you haven’t exercised in a while, start slowly. Low-impact aerobic activities like swimming or gardening are great ways to raise your heart rate. You can also work on your balance with activities like yoga or dancing, and you can add strength training using hand-held weights or your own body weight (pushups, sit-ups). Ask your doctor what exercises would be best for your body type and health status.

4. See what your neighborhood has to offer

Many community centers and places of worship offer free or affordable fitness classes, and many local parks also have basic exercise equipment. Here in Tennessee, you can find public exercise equipment in places such as the Riverpark in Chattanooga and the Greenbelt in Kingsport.

5. Get back into something you love

If there’s an activity you enjoyed when you were younger, see if there are any adult leagues or classes offered in your area. Tennis, volleyball, golf and dancing are all good ways to stay active, and many senior-specific programs offer modified versions that will help you work around any physical health concerns you have. The Tennessee Senior Olympics also has a strong presence here, and you don’t have to have any prior experience to join. Click here to see all the sports they offer.

6.  Make it social

Exercise is easier and more enjoyable when you have someone to do it with. Join a walking club, try a gardening group or check the schedule at your local community center to see what classes they offer. Social connection has also been shown to decrease your risk of early death by up to 50%, so add relationship-building to your routine to improve your physical and emotional health.

7. Take advantage of discounts

Many gyms or community centers offer senior discounts, and some health plans cover membership fees or offer discounts on equipment. If you’re a BlueCross member, you can find out more here.

Ashley Brantley

Ashley Brantley

Ashley Brantley has been writing about food, culture and health for more than a decade, and has lived in three of Tennessee’s four major cities (Memphis, Nashville and Knoxville).

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WellTuned provides inspiration and practical advice for healthy living.
WellTuned does not offer medical advice. Any personal health questions should be addressed to your doctor.

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