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It’s Time for Senior Fitness: National Senior Health & Fitness Day May 30

For seniors over 65 who are wondering when the best time is to start a fitness program (with doctor’s approval, of course), National Senior Health & Fitness Day on Wednesday, May 30, provides a lot of inspiration to start now.

Over 100,000 older adults will participate in activities at more than 1,000 locations throughout the U.S. as the special 25th Anniversary of National Senior Health & Fitness Day is celebrated. The common goal for this day: to help keep older Americans healthy and fit. Always held the last Wednesday in May, National Senior Health & Fitness Day is the nation’s largest annual health and wellness event for older adults.

Reaping the benefits 

While everyone of all ages can benefit from a moderate exercise program—health and physician’s approval permitting—seniors can really enjoy healthy returns. Exercise brings a host of health benefits: helps maintain healthy weight, prevent heart disease and stroke, enhance lung function, lower blood pressure, reduce pain, and improve energy and focus.

It can strengthen bones and slow the body’s loss of muscle tone. Most importantly, staying fit can enhance balance and reduce the risk of falls—the most common cause of nonfatal injuries in seniors. Finally, exercise can help curb anxiety and depression by reducing stress levels and producing an overall sense of well-being.

Boosting health and building strength

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends two types of exercise each week to enhance health: aerobics and muscle strengthening. Yet just one in three Americans over the age of 65 is following these guidelines. Encourage seniors to incorporate both kinds of movement into their exercise routine. Aerobic activities—from swimming to biking, jogging to dancing—boost heart and lung health. Strength-building exercises, such as resistance training using elastic bands and free weights, improve muscle tone and can reduce age-related muscle loss.

Keeping fit with limited mobility

Seniors who are challenged by mobility limitations can still exercise. Shift the focus from what they can’t do to what they can. Yoga—combining gentle, stretching movements with deep breathing techniques—is a great choice for those with a restricted range of motion. An easy yet highly beneficial activity is “chair yoga”—exercises and relaxation practices that can be done without getting on the floor.

Relieving loneliness and depression

Exercising with others offers a prime opportunity to connect, have fun, and build community. It’s an ideal antidote to loneliness, a feeling experienced regularly by nearly half of all older adults. Exercise also wards off depression because it releases endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers that can improve overall mood, outlook, and quality of life.

Setting the stage

Without plenty of preparation, seniors starting an exercise program at any time of the year can risk injury. These five essential steps can set the stage for safety and are good advice for anyone starting an exercise program:

  1. Talk with your doctor. Before you start a new exercise program, consult with your doctor. Together, you can assess your goals and capabilities and develop a fitness plan.
  2. Start slowly. Take it one step at a time. Be gentle on your body by starting small with an easy walking or stretching routine. Discover what you can do and add on gradually from there.
  3. Warm up. Make sure your muscles are ready for a workout. Prime them with walking or light arm pumping.
  4. Prevent and protect. When you’re outdoors, wear shoes with rubber soles to prevent falling down on slippery grounds. Lather on sunscreen to protect your skin from sunburn.
  5. Keep plenty of water on hand to restore fluids lost due to heat and sweating.

Celebrate National Senior Health & Fitness Day by launching your own personalized exercise program. And don’t think your fitness wraps up with the end of Spring; healthy habits are evergreen. Let your May exercise program continue to bloom every day of the year!

By Susan Fitts, Business Development Director, Colonial Lindale, a StoneGate Senior Living community, and Natalie Hooper, Chief Operating Officer, Rehab Pro