Reuters News reports that America's ageing population is posing special challenges. Why? Fitness experts say it is difficult to design effective workout routines for people with such a wide range of abilities. For one 70-year-old, the goal may be to run a marathon; for another it's getting out of a chair. And more people join the "older" ranks every day. The US older population grew from 3 million in 1900 to 40 million in 2010.
Experts say that older adults should be doing aerobic activity to help maintain body weight, strengthening exercises to develop and maintain muscle mass and some type of flexibility training. Physical activity can reduce the risk of diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and osteoporosis and improve the quality of life by maintaining functional capacity, such as the ability to climb stairs, open doors, and carry groceries.
Mary Ann Wilson is the creator and host of the program, "Sit and Be Fit," that includes warm-up, circulation and strength segments, a finger segment (for stiffness), standing for balance, and relaxation. Posture, breathing, balance, cognitive functioning and reaction time are among the most important—and neglected—components of elder fitness, she said.
Karen Peterson, author of "Move with Balance: Healthy Aging Activities for Brain and Body," stresses a mind-body approach in workouts with seniors. Her exercises include tossing a bean bag to improve reaction time, walking a figure-eight pattern for balance, as well as eye stretches, jaw relaxers and cognitive challenges to keep body and mind alert. "We take balance exercises and add conversation or math problems," she said. "The concept is to always progress, always get more challenging."
Experts agree that it's never too late to do something to improve our physical well-being. "Exercise is effective even in the most frail individual," Wilson said. "If they can wiggle their toes, they can exercise."