Exercises for Aging Well
Imagine 10, 20, or 30 years into your future: What do you want it to look like? Are you sitting at home or are you out in the world, experiencing new things? Many people have an “active aging mindset;” that is, they want to continue growing in new knowledge and experiences. . But to be active in the future, we need to focus on our health now. September provides the perfect opportunity to start, as a way to celebrate Healthy Aging® Month.
Health Aging Month focuses on the positive aspects of growing older. In 2022, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution “to raise awareness of and encourage healthy lifestyle behaviors and the prevention and management of chronic health conditions among older adults.” Carolyn Worthington, publisher of the Healthy Aging® multimedia platform, explains, “September was chosen because so many people feel they can ‘get started’ more easily then. Maybe the back-to-school routine never really goes away.”
So, what can you do to age well? Here are five exercises that will help with health and longevity.
- Walking is a terrific form of cardio and can easily be adjusted to your abilities by changing the pace, distance, or amount. It’s also something that those who need a cane or walker can do. If you want more of a workout, try Nordic walking, which uses poles to incorporate more movement throughout the body, including legs and hips, but also the core, shoulders, and arms. For a mental health boost, take your walk on a nature trail.
- Squats are one of the most effective forms of strength training, which prevents osteoporosis and frailty by increasing muscle and bone. Plus, squats work more than just your legs; they also engage the core and hip muscles as well as balance. You can learn how to do a squat properly here. If you want to challenge yourself, try doing them with your feet on a pillow. Or, if you want to tackle walking and squats at the same time, climb stairs.
- Push-ups can be done any time, anywhere, without any equipment. Not only do push-ups use several muscles at once, being able to do 40 or more may prevent cardiovascular issues. But don’t worry if you can’t do more than 10; over half of Americans can’t do that many either. The good news is that with persistence and consistency, you can improve your ability to do push-ups. Start small and easy, doing wall push-ups, and gradually move up in difficulty to couch then knee then diamond push-ups. Healthline has a list of beginner push-ups with instructions on how to do them here.
- Yoga has been shown to positively impact mobility, balance, cellular aging, and mental health; it also prevents cognitive decline. Brahmani Liebman, senior yoga teacher at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in New York, explains, “The beauty of yoga and its many practices is that there’s something for everybody. These practices allow us to continue to enjoy our lives, to keep moving with our grandchildren.” There are many different types and levels; the community fitness program Silver Sneakers outlines the different types here.
- Dancing is perhaps one of the most fun ways to keep fit, with ways to adapt for age, physical limitations, and culture. Regardless of style, dancing has been shown to improve muscular strength, endurance, balance, and overall functional fitness. Many community centers and colleges offer dance classes, and there are several online resources to dance at home. The best news is that dancing can happen informally and spontaneously! Play your favorite music and just move.
Exercising is key to health aging. The exercises above are good ways to stay active and independent as you grow older, but what really matters is doing the exercises you love to do. Spend this September reinvesting and reinventing yourself as part of Health Aging Month.