Senior citizens can benefit from exercise just like anyone else. As a matter of fact, the Mayo Clinic, the American Heart Association and most other globally recognized health institutions recommend 2.5 hours of moderately intense aerobic activity each week for men and women over 50. The question is, should seniors be focusing on low impact or high impact exercises?
Defining High, Low and No Impact Exercise
In the physical fitness community, a high impact exercise receives that label if both of your feet leave the ground at the same time during your workout. This includes activities like running, jumping rope, jumping jacks and some cardio dance moves. Your body is experiencing the maximum possible impact every time you land. Most physicians and physical trainers recommend adults over 50 steer clear of high impact exercises.
Low impact exercises are defined as those where only one of your feet leaves the ground at any given time. This includes walking, hiking, most step aerobic exercise programs and some cardio dance workouts.
It is a common fallacy to consider water aerobics, cycling, elliptical machine exercises, Pilates and yoga as low impact workouts. However, in most cases both of your feet remain on the ground during these exercise programs. This means that these are technically “no impact” forms of physical activity.
What Are the Best Exercises for Senior Citizens?
Low and no impact exercises are recommended for men and women over 50, senior citizens and those recuperating from accidents, surgery and medical conditions. Your bones, joints and tissues as a senior are not as strong and pliable as when you were younger. This means that you want to experience less impact on your body as you age.
There is a very good reason that you don’t see too many professional football players in their late 30s and 40s. This is a high impact profession. To limit injuries and still receive the maximum health benefits that exercise can provide, adults over 50 should go low or no impact when working out.
No Pain No Gain, Right? Wrong!
In recent years huge strides have been made concerning our understanding of exercise. We now know that more than 5.0 hours of moderately intense to strenuous physical activity each week actually shortens your life span! Significant studies also show that just 2.5 to 3.5 hours of physical activity weekly with your heart rate at 60% to 80% of its maximum delivers the most health benefits. This means excessive weight lifting and long-distance running are not as healthy and smart as “sensible” physical activities that get your heart pumping for short periods of time. This is what low-impact exercises offer.