As an elderly, staying active should be a priority since it offers a myriad of health benefits that improves your physical and mental well-being. While everyone is recommended to exercise for at least 150 minutes a week, the elderly, in particular, need to remain active more often due to the high risk of falls and age-related muscle loss – a condition known medically as sarcopenia. However, it is important for seniors to know the appropriate exercises for their health conditions when working out.
In this article, we will cover cardiovascular exercises for the elderly in Singapore, divided into three levels of fitness – generally healthy senior adults, bedbound elderlies, and those with heart diseases. According to the specific requirements of your fitness and health status, you can select the appropriate exercises to maintain active, or even better, to work out together with fellow seniors or as a family.
Cardiovascular Exercises for Generally Healthy Seniors
There are several cardiovascular exercises for healthy seniors. As a general rule of thumb, if you are healthy and physically capable, you can perform any exercise that young individuals do. However, the intensity may vary. So it is best to keep checking in with yourself during and post workout to see if the intensity level is tolerable. Exercising with those of the same fitness level will also help to avoid pushing yourself harder than you should.
A very popular cardio exercise for healthy seniors is Nordic walking. Nordic walking was first introduced as a summer training activity for cross-country skiers. Since then, more people have adopted this exercise to engage their entire musculature.
During Nordic walking, you will need two poles to propel yourself forward while keeping your posture straight. This will give you a full-body workout. Here is a video to get you started.
According to reports, Nordic walking recruits 90% of your muscles, which is significantly higher than most other cardio exercises. Harvard Medical School states that Nordic walking boosts caloric consumption by up to 67% relative to regular walking. Overall, Nordic walking is an easy-to-learn exercise with great potential benefits.
If you like to walk a lot, you could try Nordic walking to optimize your health benefits without having to spend more time exercising. The best part about Nordic walking is that it is easy on the joints, which is particularly beneficial for the elderly with rusty articulations. The equipment needed for Nordic walking includes a pair of poles and appropriate walking shoes. You can find special poles custom-made for Nordic walking for as low as $20.
Cardiovascular Exercises for Bedbound Seniors
Fitness options for bed bound elderly are more limited. However, this should not stop you from stimulating your cardiovascular system with compatible exercises. Here are some exercise routines for bedridden seniors:
Extremity stretches (hand and finger stretches)
Stretching your hands and fingers helps your muscles stay active and prevent muscle shrinking (i.e., atrophy). Using a squeeze ball to work on your hand and finger muscles may improve your dexterity, which can alleviate the need for assistance when you eat, use the phone, or press the buttons on the remote control. While you might not think of this as a typical cardiovascular exercise, it in fact can raise your heart rate moderately.
You can perform arm lifts on your own or with the help of a caregiver. There are a few options to suit different movement ranges as well as to provide you with variety. If you are comfortable with full arm movement, lift your entire arm up, hold for 10 seconds or longer, lower, rest then repeat for 10-15 times/set per arm. If upper arm movement is limited, you can lift your arm at the elbow instead. This exercise provides a basic muscle resistance workout to help you preserve the ability to grab and move objects.
Leg lifts are essential in preventing pressure ulcers (also known as pressure sores or bedsores) and improving blood circulation to different parts of the body. They also reduce the unsteadiness felt during walking by seniors who were temporarily bedridden. To perform this exercise, lift one leg up to 90 degrees, hold for 10 seconds, lower, rest then repeat for 10-15 times per leg. Generally, 3 sets of exercise is recommended to achieve cardiovascular benefit. If 3 sets is too strenuous for you, start with less and build up your strength to the goal of 3 sets.
Side rolls also help minimize the risk of pressure sores in bedridden patients. This exercise revolves around turning your body from one side to the other, which you need to perform several times a day to promote healthy blood circulation, either by yourself or with the help with a caregiver.
Cardiovascular Exercises for Individuals with Heart Disease
As we covered in our previous article, elderly individuals are prone to all forms of heart disease, which could negatively impact their fitness level. However, many beliefs about the relationship between heart disease and fitness are myths. In other words, being diagnosed with heart disease does not necessarily translate to absolute immobility.
In fact, cardiologists advise patients with certain heart diseases to remain active and perform aerobic and resistance training. Before we list the exercises you can perform, we urge you to reach out to your doctor in order to get tailored medical advice based on your health status and heart condition.
With that said, here are 3 cardio routines that individuals with heart disease can perform:
Stretching is indispensable before any physical activity to prevent musculoskeletal injuries. Make sure to stretch your entire body before starting any workout. A simple stretching routine includes neck rolls, shoulder rolls, arm rotation, hip rotation, hamstring stretch (foot flexing or forward bend) and ankle roll. Stretching should be performed for 30 seconds for each body part.
Running and jogging
Running and jogging, including Nordic walking above, can be an option for certain elderly with heart diseases. However, your ability to perform these exercises depends on your general physical condition, as well as your doctor’s recommendations. Be sure to check with your doctor what is the recommended intensity for you.
Both running and jogging are aerobic exercises that positively impact your cardiac health. Studies have found that exercise therapy and cardiac rehabilitation help seniors with coronary artery disease (CAD). Improvements for those who follow aerobic exercises that rehabilitate cardiac function include improved heart function, more efficient metabolism, reduced cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and enhanced blood pressure control compared to elderly people who do not exercise.
Swimming is undoubtedly one of the best exercises to perform at all ages and regardless of health status. It is a low-impact exercise that stimulates your heart just in the right margin. When you move in water, you will also support your joints and add resistance to your muscles, which strengthens them. Finally, swimming prevents your body from overheating, which is a common trigger of dehydration – a real problem in the elderly population.
Note that if you have a history of cardiovascular and heart diseases, you should seek your doctor’s opinion before performing this exercise.
Yoga is highly beneficial for all ages. It improves articular range of motion, muscle tonicity, and general strength. Additionally, yoga induces feelings of relaxation, which is particularly helpful for the elderly.
Interestingly, studies found that individuals who practice yoga are less likely to suffer from cardiovascular diseases. To explain this phenomenon, scientists theorise that yoga reduces cardiovascular risk factors. For instance, one study found that patients over the age of 40 who practiced yoga for at least five years had significantly lower blood pressure levels relative to the control group.
Yoga is also the go-to method when you’re dealing with mental issues, such as anxiety and depression. Several review studies outlined the positive effects of yoga on anxiety. Researchers found that this practice balances the action of the sympathetic nervous system, which is part of your autonomic brain and functions as the regulator for a variety of functions, including heart rate, breathing, sweating, and urination.
Staying active is absolutely crucial for elderly of all health conditions, to lower the risk of falls and improve the prognosis of several disease processes. We hope that this article serves as an introduction to the world of senior fitness. There are also a variety of initiatives under the National Seniors’ Health Programme that seniors in Singapore can benefit from, for free or at a very low cost. In addition to working out on your own, whenever suitable, we encourage you to reach out to your nearest community centers for additional organised physical and well-being activities to take part in.
Managing Cardiovascular Health at Home with Ninkatec
As one of the leading home care specialists in Singapore, Ninkatec combines medical technology with highly customised service to bring the highest level of care to elderlies aging and healing at home. We care for a wide range of elderly conditions such as cardiovascular care, dementia care, stroke care, cancer care, and other general elderly care services. Regardless of your conditions and needs, you can be assured of quality and affordable professional medical advice and services from us. Contact Ninkatec Care Team for a personal consultation chat today.