Helping aging family members and friends can create myriad questions as to whether the helper is doing what is best for the senior in his or her life. For example, caregivers need to know what medical experts suggest is the correct amount of activity for elderly individuals.
Exercising as a Part of Seniors’ Care
Most people, if asked what the most important detail in a senior’s daily list of things to do is, would probably say “exercise.” Common wisdom is that walking, bending, and stretching keeps aging bodies stronger and helps seniors with stability, confidence, and self-assuredness. The adage “use it or lose it” comes to mind.
Even though a helper may be fully aware that exercise is necessary, he or she is more interested in ensuring that workout programs offered are safe and carefully designed to keep seniors healthy, fit, and unharmed in any way. The types of exercising, the duration, and the timing of exercise are all paramount to caregivers.
Movement vs. Exercise
Walking to the mailbox or stretching when getting out of bed, says LaVona S. Traywick, Ph.D., an assistant professor of gerontology in the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture in Little Rock, are excellent ways to keep the body active and moving, but these kinds of activities should not be considered exercise. A workout includes participating in classes led by an experienced trainer such as aerobics, yoga, or working with weights. Both are important to seniors’ daily movements.
How Much Exercise is Enough?
Dr. Traywick explains that the current recommendation for time seniors should spend exercising per week is 150 minutes. But this amount of time can be broken down into 20 minutes a day for seven days a week or 30 minutes a day for seven days a week. Traywick suggests that this type of schedule encourages seniors to be active since the time can then easily be broken into 10-minute increments a day.
Type of Exercise
The four recommended exercise types for seniors include:
• Endurance activities such as dancing, jogging, walking, and playing tennis.
• Strength training* with resistance bands, free weights, and other equipment.
• Balance training based on strengthening the back and legs.
• Exercises for flexibility accomplished through calf, thigh, shoulder, and upper arm stretching.
*During strength training, the focus on specific muscle groups should alternate, allowing each muscle group a “rest day” between workout sessions.
Organizing exercise routines and times is much smoother for seniors in 10-minute segments of activity each day. It is paramount, when helping seniors, to find the activity level, time and motivation to keep loved ones at peak performance.