By Mark Sisson
At least once a week on any local news channel anywhere in the country there is a color piece on an octogenarian who just completed a marathon, or a 98 year old man who went skydiving, or a team of rugby players all over the age of 60. Fitness isn’t exclusive to the young.
Admittedly, age takes a toll on the joints and muscles, but the principles of honing the body’s strength, flexibility, balance, and cardiovascular health still hold true for seniors just as much as youth. Intense wind sprints and hundreds of push ups may not be the best route to senior fitness, but there are still plenty of types of exercises for the elderly. Here are some of the best…
Can’t sprint? Swim! Swimming combines the intensity of a full body workout (especially the core) with the reduced stressed, low impact environment. One of the best exercise option for seniors suffering from arthritis. This exercise is a particular draw for elderly woman suffering from chronic back pain, or seniors with brittle bones.
No, this is not a spiced herbal beverage available at Starbucks (that’s chai tea). It is an ancient martial art focusing on subtle movement, coordination and balance. As a martial art, it’s much more art than martial. This is a wonderful exercise for the elderly as speed is not a requirement. And regardless of age, many use Tai Chi as a form of stress relief as well as fitness
If you take kindly to Tai Chi, Yoga would be a next healthy step. Yoga can be more vigorous than Tai Chi, but still applicable for senior fitness. It works to strengthen and lengthen muscles, as well as improve flexibility. Additionally, there are many yoga positions and routines specifically designed to alleviate back pain.
The most primal exercise, and perhaps the best, humans were meant to hike. The human body evolved to endure and thrive from long, low impact walks, and that applies perfectly to elderly. Hiking outdoors encourages adaptability; it is the opposite of the treadmill. Even a slow hike can provide a good amount of cardiovascular exercise without reaching painful intensive levels for senior citizens.
This is not a traditional exercise for the elderly. No one thinks of a 60-and-over rowing team when they think of senior fitness. But, rowing provides a strenuous upper body workout, without the pump and grind of the gym. Rowing works the quads, the core, and even the leg muscles. It also adds the fresh element, essential to senior living. Getting a workout along the lazy shore of a local river can be quite charming.
Okay, maybe not. In fact, definitely not an exercise for the elderly. Stick to the first five.
Ultimately, have fun. Simple activities like dancing, golfing, gardening or even just a picnic can be a great way to keep the body active. Logging an hour a day at the gym isn’t a necessity so long as you get the blood flowing, a simple walk to the corner grocer may do the trick. The principles of fitness and senior fitness are the same; find enjoyable, fulfilling activities, choose a variety rather than a boring daily routine, and don’t be afraid to include others!
Mark Sisson is a fomer professional triathlete who runs a popular health and nutrition blog, Mark’s Daily Apple. Check it out for more great articles and information on the Primal Blueprint, a revolutionary health plan using the principles of human evolution as the basis for modern, high protein, healthy living.
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