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Want An Active, Healthy, And Independent Life? Try Cardio Exercises For Seniors

Cardio exercises, sometimes also called aerobic activities, are rhythmic movements that increase your heartbeat. This happens because there is more demand for oxygen which can reach your cells and tissues only through the blood.

When performed correctly, cardio exercises raise your pulse but not to a point when you feel the need to stop and catch your breath. Examples of such activities are jogging, swimming, cycling, rowing, basketball, and other similar sports.

Are cardio exercises important for seniors? What types are considered safe? Read on to learn more.

Why are Cardio Exercises Important for Seniors

Regular cardio workouts are great for everyone, including our beloved seniors. They are the best way known to doctors and professional trainers and recommended by them to keep ourselves in good shape for as long as possible with all the health benefits stemming from that.

Build strong muscles and stay healthy

As we age, it becomes crucial to train the muscles in our body so that they are in their optimal shape to support the rest of our organs and systems. The older we get, the more critical it becomes to move and perform physical activity, as this can prevent or delay many ailments typically occurring with aging.

senior gentlemen and a younger woman enjoying brisk walking outdoors | one of the best cardio for seniors

Promote strong heart

Aerobic exercises also help the heart muscle to stay fit. As we age, a covering of fat tissue may develop around the heart and make it work harder. We are as strong as our heart is.

When the heart does its job well, we get enough blood supply to all organs and tissues, which prevents us from developing problems with the arteries, such as high blood pressure. Regular senior cardio exercises can help us maintain a healthy heart.

Prolong and support independent living

If you have an aging loved one who likes being independent, you should encourage them to engage in cardio activities as often as possible. This is important, as having a strong body would let them take care of themselves without needing the help of others for longer.

older cyclist on a scenic road doing senior cardio workout

Studies suggest that the more physically active seniors are, i.e., they can dress, cook, bathe, shop, and clean after themselves, the more independent they can be. Being fit and active can also decrease the risk of falling, which is so prevalent in older adults.

Prevent memory loss, high sugar levels, and decreased bone density

Leading a physically active life can help with other age-related problems such as memory loss, elevated blood sugar levels, and decreased bone density. Supplying enough blood to the brain is essential for maintaining a good memory. Regular physical activity is especially important to people with diabetes.

Combat depression, anxiety, and sleep problems

Cardio exercises are not only beneficial for your loved one’s physical well-being but also for their mental state. Performing physical activity induces the secretion of both serotonin and dopamine, hormones essential for creating the feeling of satisfaction, pleasure, and delight.

seniors doing fitness aerobics with a trainer

Providing the opportunity for safe and effective cardio exercises that correspond to your senior beloved’s physical abilities, routine, and preferences can be complicated. However, Amy’s Eden senior caregivers can assist you in setting up such a routine for your loved one according to instructions from their doctor or a senior fitness coach.

The Best Cardio Exercises for Seniors

Physical activity is important, but when concerning 65+ and older adults, it is also essential to do it in a safe and consistent way. Trainers often say that the best exercises are those that we are willing to do on regular bases.

Therefore, when selecting which cardio activities to choose for your older loved one, you should take into account their preferences, abilities, and the actual circumstances in their daily life.

The frequency, intensity, and length of each session should vary from person to person and from day to day. On average, seniors should be engaged in physical activities between 2.5 and 5 hours per week.

Depending on your beloved senior fitness level, they can begin with a 10-minute practice each day and gradually increase the length and intensity of the exercise.

It is important to watch out for over-exertion and very high heart rate, as this can be life-threatening to your loved one. If they have joint problems, you may want to choose low-impact cardio training, such as swimming or water aerobics.

water aerobics are the best cardio exercise for seniors

Some outdoor aerobic activities that are good for seniors are:

  • Walking
  • Brisk walking,
  • swimming, and
  • cycling.

When the weather is bad, or if your loved one lives in an area unsuitable for outdoor activities, they can try indoor exercises such as:

  • Rowing on a rowing machine
  • cycling on a recumbent or elliptical bike, and
  • walking or jogging on a treadmill.

Other types of cardio exercise are dancing and fitness aerobics. These activities can be pretty joyful to seniors as well.

Walking

It can be done as a low-intensity workout both outdoors and indoors. The pace should be a comfortable one, and the time should progressively get longer.

Using a treadmill gives advantages such as selecting a time, an incline, and a pace. However, walking requires good balance, especially on a treadmill. If your loved one suddenly gets dizzy, or experience vertigo, for example, they can get easily injured on the treadmill.

Cycling

Riding a bicycle is a fun activity that puts into work large groups of muscles simultaneously. If your senior can use an outdoor bicycle, it’s great, but if they suffer from poor balance or joint pain, it might be better to equip them with a stationary or recumbent bike.

Riding such bikes indoors prevents injuries from falls, is easier on the lower body joints, and can be executed come rain or shine.

 

 

Swimming

Swimming is a very popular older adult cardio activity. It uses almost all muscles in the body, and it is very difficult to injure yourself doing it. Swimming practices can be just swimming, or they can involve stretching and resistance exercises.

Rowing

fitness instructor checking elderly gentleman’s heart rate during cardio exercise on a rower

Either on a rower or in a boat, rowing also targets many muscle groups. It is low-impact, gentle to the joints, and is safe. Using an indoor rower lets you adjust the resistance and, therefore, the intensity of the workout.

Dancing

dancing is an excellent cardio and social activity for seniors

Dancing can be an effective cardio exercise and also a great social activity. If done with a partner or a group, it can be a lot of fun and an opportunity to connect with others. This physical activity improves balance, raises the heart rate, builds stronger muscles, and boosts one’s mood.

Fitness aerobics

This is a set of exercises performed without equipment or with minimal everyday objects such as a chair or a step at home. They can be done at the gym or in the yard too.

older woman working with a trainer | cardio exercises for seniors

When adapted to seniors, these types of exercises should be executed by a personal trainer who can be mindful of the correct posture and can set up an appropriate pace.

Common Challenges of Cardio Workouts for Seniors and How to Overcome Them

Often, seniors stay away from exercising not because they are lazy or demotivated but because they are in too much pain or they don’t know where to start.

Muscle weakness

A typical problem they may encounter is muscle weakness due to a prolonged sedentary period. This muscle weakness will impact how they perform the exercises, which could lead to feeling embarrassed and, therefore, decrease their motivation level. That is why it is essential to start slow and, if possible, with a trainer or a group of people at the same fitness level as your loved one.

Joint pain or stiff joints

Another issue that the elderly often have is stiff or painful joints. Pain in the back or the knees can be difficult to ignore, no matter how many people say it might get better with exercise.

to avoid injuries during cardio workouts seniors shouldn’t strain too much

The key here is to work with someone who knows what they are doing — a trained Amy’s Eden caregiver or a fitness coach, for example. They can guide your senior beloved to do exercises that will strengthen them and alleviate the pain or discomfort they are feeling.

Additionally, a visit to the doctor can provide pain-relief medication to further assist them in their journey to a more active daily life.

Fear of injury

Fear of injury stands out as another common challenge that seniors have to overcome. And as a person who has endured a fall and sustained broken bones in their mid-40s, I can testify this is as legitimate a reason as any other for not being willing to take any risks with new activities.

On the other hand, we must not forget that to acquire better balance and reduce the risk of falls and injuries, we have to train our bodies.

joyful senior woman doing gardening accompanied by a young boy | best aerobic exercise for seniors

If your loved one is experiencing uneasiness and therefore is reluctant to commit to an aerobic activity program, perhaps you can take things slow. Start with a low-impact, low-intensity exercise and build from there.

Some gardening, window shopping, a short walk in the park, and a light water gymnastics session are all great choices of activities to incorporate into your beloved elderly everyday routine.

Lack of motivation

To keep them motivated and engaged, you may need the help of a professional trainer, a caregiver, or a group tutor. Sometimes it is easier to feel enthusiastic about something if we do it with others.

A specialist will also be able to come up with ideas that are tailor-made for your loved one’s unique situation and preferences. The professional can advise on the most suitable exercise equipment and show them how to use it safely.

Moreover, when doing exercises under the supervision of a caregiver, your loved one can receive encouragement, and their progress can be monitored and the program can be adjusted accordingly.

Amy’s Eden caregivers are trained on basic cardio exercises for seniors including warm-up and post-workout activities. These include stretching movements, as well as breathing and focusing techniques.

Another point that might be overlooked is staying hydrated. Seniors tend to have a lower tolerance to dehydration which can cause more problems than you are trying to solve through exercising.

Other Changes to Support Cardio Health in Seniors

Caring for the cardio health of your beloved older adult should not stop at setting them up for physical activity. Indeed, their lifestyle is the most crucial factor that determines the condition of their cardiovascular system.

The components of a healthy lifestyle are:

  • Following a balanced diet
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Promoting a good night’s sleep
  • Managing stress levels
  • Being physically active, and
  • Avoiding smoking and excessive use of alcohol

In recent years, scientists once more brought to the public attention the value of the Mediterranean diet for cardiovascular health. Consisting of plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit, whole wheat cereals, legumes, oily fish, and some lean meat and dairy products, this diet is believed to decrease the risk of strokes, prevent heart attacks and support cardio health.

The healthy body max index (BMI) for most adults is considered to be anywhere between 18 and 25. Anything above this range may not be considered a healthy weight.

Being overweight can put an unnecessary strain on your beloved senior’s heart. Consuming clean, fresh, and healthy food together with observing an exercise routine will help them maintain their weight within the recommended range. If you’re unsure about what your loved one should be eating, you can ask a nutritionist.

Sleep is extremely important for the health and the general well-being of everyone. Your loved one needs a good night’s sleep for their body to recuperate and support a healthy brain function. Having a routine, avoiding caffeine, nicotine, and other stimulants, and creating a relaxed and inviting atmosphere in the bedroom can all contribute to establishing and keeping a healthy bedtime routine.

tai chi is an excellent outdoor cardio exercise for seniors

One of the most detrimental factors contributing to the occurrence of cardiovascular diseases is stress. Therefore learning how to manage our stress levels is key to maintaining good heart health.

Some techniques that can help with that are

  • Meditation and breathing
  • Mindfulness
  • Yoga
  • Tai Chi
  • Sports, or regular physical activity.

Additionally, practicing a hobby can also alleviate stress and anxiety.

To establish good habits that will help your loved one maintain their heart health, providing them with the best care and environment is vital. Having someone to assist them in staying physically active can make a huge difference in their quality of life.

A senior caregiver can do just that and more. They can also offer emotional support and companionship and motivate your loved one to take better care of themselves.

FAQs About Cardio Exercises for Seniors

How much cardio exercise should seniors strive for?

The amount can vary according to the fitness level and capability of each person, but according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about half an hour a day is considered a good amount of aerobic activity for people over 65 years of age.

What is the safest exercise for seniors?

Swimming or water aerobics is considered the safest activity for seniors by many doctors, including the specialists at WebMD. It’s kind to the joints and bones while simultaneously providing resistance to the muscles. Water aerobics is a great way for seniors to stay active.

Are there any cardio exercises seniors should stay away from?

High-intensity activities that raise the heartbeat quickly could be dangerous to older adults, as they may increase the risk of a heart attack or a stroke. In addition, high-impact exercises, such as running, jumping, boxing, etc., may cause trauma to joints, ligaments, muscles, or bones and should also be avoided by seniors.

What other exercises should seniors focus on to stay healthy?

According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), there are four major types of exercises seniors should be engaged in. Cardio or endurance activities can be accompanied by exercises that build strength, such as weight lifting, push-ups, and resistance bands.

The other two are activities building balance and improving flexibility, like Tai Chi, dancing, yoga, and stretches. These four types are crucial for maintaining good health.

The Bottom Line

Aerobic activity is essential for the cardio health of seniors. It is important to engage them in a way that gives them joy, is doable, and is challenging enough for their current fitness level.

Due to some age-related peculiarities, like bone fragility and joint stiffness, low-impact exercises should be preferred. It’s best to start slow, with just 10 minutes of activity per day, and build upon this in time.

Exercising with a personal trainer, a caregiver, or in a group is an excellent way for older adults to socialize with other people. This can add extra spruce to the cardio activity and improve their motivation.

Staying hydrated, not overexerting themselves, and treading carefully to prevent an injury are the three most important things to remember when planning and executing an aerobic exercise routine for your beloved senior.

If all this is a little overwhelming, do seek help from professionals. We at Amy’s Eden are here to assist you and your loved one in pursuing graceful and healthy aging by providing a caregiver who can assist with personal care or offer companionship.

Contact us to schedule an appointment in which we can evaluate your loved one’s needs and draft a plan of action.

Sources:

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0167494316301923

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/ijcp.12822

https://scholarworks.gvsu.edu/honorsprojects/743/

https://www.issaonline.com/blog/post/top-cardiovascular-exercises-for-senior-clients

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4339461/

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