Just because you’ve reached your golden years is no reason that you shouldn’t be able to get into shape, or maintain your fitness levels if you are a pretty solid physical specimen now. The problem is that, as we age, father time often has other plans. You can fool him however, and keep your physical prowess, even as you ride off into the sunset.
One thing about reaching senior status is that you discover aches and pains that just weren’t there a few years before. It also takes longer to recover from injuries, so better to avoid them in the first place. With that in mind, a senior fitness program should comprise exercises that won’t lead to more problems than they solve.
That doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t involve any sort of physical exertion, however. On the contrary, in many cases you’ll have to use muscles that have been left undisturbed for years. You’ll want to ease into it, though, because jumping in with both feet may leave those feet a bit too sore, along with the attached legs.
Your goal is to increase all aspects of your physical self; stamina, strength, flexibility, and body composition (the ratio of fat to lean body tissue). With the right fitness exercises, you can do just that! Here is a combination of exercises that will have you running around like a youngster in no time.
One of the most powerful tools available to you to increase your physical fitness is resistance training. Therefore, many of these exercises us weights or other forms of resistance to build your muscular strength and endurance, and help you burn fat. You shouldn’t neglect your cardio-vascular health however, so a different spin on cardio training is included that is proven to get more results in less time than the traditional hour long treadmill and exercise bike sessions.
Important Note: See your health care professional before beginning this or any other exercise program. At an advanced age, there may be underlying physical conditions that could render some exercises or exercise programs extremely dangerous to perform.
One of the best beginning fitness exercises is something almost anyone can do, brisk walking. Go for a brisk walk around your neighborhood, at your health club,m or anyplace else that the opportunity affords itself. The key is brisk walking, as opposed to a leisurely stroll. You want to get some exertion, but you needn’t go so fast that you look like those race walkers at the Olympics! Do this for about half hour a day, 5 days a week to get started.
The next thing is to avail yourself of one of the best pieces of fitness equipment around; the dumbbell. This modest piece of gear can do more to increase your fitness levels than almost any other device. The beauty of dumbbells is that they can be used to strengthen and increase the endurance of any skeletal muscle group, while taking up minimal space, relatively inexpensive, and easy to use.
To get the maximum effect in the minimum amount of time, in addition to keeping your heart rate up for some cardio-vascular benefit, you’ll want to stick to compound exercises. Unlike single joint exercises such as curls, compound exercises involve multiple joints and muscle groups.
Some examples of compound exercises are squats, bench presses, and overhead presses. Each of these exercises requires that more than one joint bend, and that you use multiple muscle groups to complete the exercise. For example, the squat uses the muscles of the upper leg (the quadraceps at the front of the leg and the hamstrings at the rear), the gluteus maximus (your rear end, which is the largest single muscle in your body), and lower back. As an added bonus, it secondarily stresses countless stabilizing muscles, such as the abdominals, obliques (to the sides of the abdomen), and calves.
At the beginning, a single set (number of repetitions) of each exercise will be enough to get the desired effects, but soon you’ll want to increase that to three or four sets of each. Early on, choose a light weight, such that you can perform 12-15 repetitions with strict form. Trust me, that will be plenty! Later, you’ll add 2 or 3 additional sets, using more weight and fewer repetitions.
It is a good idea to warm up before you do any resistance exercises, so do them after you have gone for your walk, or spend 5 or 10 minutes riding an exercise bike or walking on a treadmill.
Here is a fantastic dumbbell routine that is perfect for seniors. For more information on how do perform these exercises properly, and pictures to help, see the following post on my blog Belly Fat Loser Dumbbell Workouts.
What Do I Do?
Dumbbell Deadlifts The dumbbell deadlift involves standing with a dumbbell in each hand and your arms hanging down at your sides, then squatting down until your legs are bent at a 90 degree angle, and slowly returning to the standing position. Your arms will remain straight, your chin up, and your eyes looking straight out in front of you. Don’t drop your head or your gaze (your head will follow your eyes down), or lean forward.
These are terrific for your back, legs, forearms, and the trapezius muscles at the upper back / sides of your neck (The trapezius are commonly known by athletes as the traps. They are the ones that make football players look like they have no neck).
Dumbbell Bench Press – The bench press, laying on your back on a bench and pressing the weight straight up, is one of the best all around upper body exercises in existence. It develops the pectoral muscles of the upper chest, the anterior deltoid muscles of the shoulder, and the triceps muscles at the back of the arm (although people tend to think of the biceps when they think of arm muscles, the triceps group actually makes up 2/3 of the upper arm muscle mass, and is responsible for straightening the arm from a bent position)
Overhead press – Sit in a chair, with some back support, and grasp a dumbbell in each hand at the sides of your neck. Your palms should be facing forward. Press the dumbbells skyward until your arms are straight, then return to the starting position. This exercise is perfect for the deltoid muscles of the shoulders, the trapezius muscles, and the the triceps.
Bent Over Dumbbell Row Much as it sounds, you will perform this exercise bent over, on a bench. Start lined up with the bench and the dumbbell on the floor. Place your left knee and left hand on the bench, and your right foot on the floor. Grasp the dumbbell with your right hand and raise it to the side of your stomach, just above your waist, then lower it to the floor. Do the requisite number of reps with the right hand, then switch positions and use the left hand.
This exercise uses the muscles of the back, biceps (the front of the upper arm, like the arm and hammer guy), and the forearms. Having the bench for support helps protect against straining the lower back muscles.
How Many Do I Do?
Start with a single set of 12 15 repetitions of each exercise. When you feel comfortable, typically after about 3 or 4 sessions, add a set of each exercise. After about 3 or 4 more sessions, add one more, so that you are doing 3 sets of each exercise. When you add more sets, add a couple of sets using relatively more weight, but only 8 12 repetitions (see below).
How Much Weight Do I Use?
Use a light weight at first, a weight that you can easily complete the 12 to 15 reps with. In a couple of weeks, add another set. You’ll notice that it will get easier to perform the exercises in no time.
The whole point of resistance training is to add weight as the body gets accustomed to the weight you are using. This illustrates the principle of adaptive response, meaning your body adapts to the increasing load by getting stronger.
When Do I Do Them?
Do all 3 of the exercises on the same day, every 4 6 days.
What About My Cardio Training?
You love sweating and huffing on the exercise bike for hours on end, don’t you? I didn’t think so. Thankfully, several recent studies have pointed to interval training as a more effective training method to increase cardio-vascular fitness.
Interval training is simply training harder for short periods of time (intervals), interspersed with rest periods. For example, instead of working at 60% capacity for an hour, you would work at 95-100% capacity for 2 minutes, then take a 2 minute rest period, and repeat that cycle 8 times. Such a combination actually offers much increased levels of cardio fitness, and gets you out of your training session in only 32 minutes (of which only 16 minutes is actual training time), rather than 60. This is very effective.
Due to the intensity of interval training, it is imperative that you check with your health care professional before undertaking such a training program.
A basic physical fitness program such s this can have you cleaning up on the tennis, ski slope, or basketball court, even if it’s been years since you felt competitive. You’ll be amazed at the changes your body undergoes. You’ll sprout muscles you didn’t know you had, and that body fat you’ve been carrying around for years will melt away as if by magic! You’ll spring up the stairs two at a time, and those heavy bags of groceries will suddenly feel so much lighter.
Steve Faber is a popular fitness blogger who blogs at How to Lose Belly Fat, where regularly posts on all sorts of fitness related topics, from how to feel younger with weight training to nutrition secrets that can melt away fat and make you feel great again.