As we get older, our energy levels decrease, our bones become frail, and our risk of falling increases. Having a smart exercise regime is an important health recommendation we instruct our senior patients to prevent some of these problems.
It’s important for seniors to stay active and move more and sit less during any given day. Moderate intensity-activities include walking briskly (three miles per hour), water aerobics, biking, tennis, ballroom dancing, and general gardening. Vigorous- intensity exercise includes race walking, swimming laps, jump roping, heavy gardening, or uphill hiking.
A good way to measure your intensity is by the target heart rate. We estimate between 64 to 76 percent of the maximum heart rate. For moderate-intensity physical activity, the age-related heart rate would be calculated as 220 – 50 (your age) = 170 (your max heart rate) beats per minute (bpm). Sixty-four to 76 percent of that level would be 109 to 129 bpm. For vigorous- intensity physical activity, the percentages are higher at 77 to 93 percent or 131 to 158 bpm in that same example.
It is important to know how to take your heart rate. First, stop exercising briefly to take your pulse. You can take your pulse at your neck, wrist, or chest. We recommend the wrist. You can feel the radial pulse on the artery of the wrist in line with the thumb. Place the tips of the index and middle fingers over the artery and press lightly. Do not use the thumb. Take a full 60-second count of the heartbeats, or take for 30 seconds and multiply by 2.
The recommendation for older adults is around 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity activity like brisk walking. Along with this, two days a week of muscle strengthening and improving balance type exercises.
Seniors may have limitations to exercise from medical problems like hip fractures, stroke, or osteoarthritis. Physical therapy can be an important resource to help design a specific exercise program that fits the limitations. Many of the senior communities where we visit our patients have great exercise programs, gait and balance activities, and on-site physical therapy.
There are great ways to be physically active while still socially distancing. These include household chores, increased activity or exercise while watching TV, or outdoor activities like walking, light to moderate yard work, and house cleaning. Working closely with your physician is also very important. This will help maximize exercise goals while protecting you from further potential injury.
Hansa Medical Groupe has offices at 5250 Old Orchard Road, Suite 300, in Skokie, and in Chicago, 847-920-0902, hansamedicalgroupe.com.