In a 2012 TED talk titled Why bodybuilding at age 93 is a great idea, speaker Charles Eugster shared his thoughts on the changing physical form of the human race. Particularly, he challenged the audience to think more carefully about aging and the aged. He sought to bring to life the fact that due to the excesses we experience in our youth, we tend not to experience aging to the fullest as chronic diseases related to obesity and inactivity set in. However, he also explained that age is just a number, and that it is never too late to start a fitness lifestyle. In fact, it is necessary.
“Successful aging requires work, diet and exercise,” Charles says. “The huge mental and physical potential of the aged remains unexplored. Bodies can now be rebuilt at any age and a new life started. Beauty kings and queens in the 80-year-old category or a beach body at the age of 94 are not impossible. We will all, regardless of age, have to take greater responsibility for our own health in order to confront the immense challenges confronting the human race.”
Not everyone will be keen on joining a gym right away, if at all. The truth is most seniors do not need the advanced equipment found in most facilities because their goals are different from younger people. Seniors can get more than enough exercise at home, so long as they know what to do and have the right equipment. Here are 3 pieces of exercise equipment seniors can buy for their home to improve strength, balance, and endurance.
Stationary recumbent bike.
First thing’s first: seniors need to do aerobic exercise. While many find walking sufficient, the reality is that aerobic exercise requires far more strenuous work. A stationary recumbent bicycle is the perfect machine for seniors because it is easy on the knees and activates the primary aerobic muscle group, the quadriceps. Recumbent bicycles are fairly cheap, retailing at around $400-$500 at most sports stores. That amounts to around one year’s worth of a gym membership.
For aerobic exercise, seniors will need to calculate their target heart rate. The formula for this is 220 – age, then multiply the difference by 0.7 (this represents 70% of the maximal heart rate). For example, if a senior is 75 years old, their heart rate will be calculated as 220 -75 = 145, then 145 x 0.7 = 101.5. Rounding up, this person’s target heart rate for aerobic exercise should be between 100 and 105 beats per minute. Once a target heart rate has been determined, a senior should set the bike to a resistance and speed that reaches and maintains this heart rate for an extended period of time. Aerobic exercise should last between 30 and 45 minutes, and should be performed at least three times per week.
Resistance bands are one of the most effective pieces of equipment available to people who want to workout from home. They activate the two types of muscle used in strength training. Most resistance band sets are cost-effective, and they often come with exercise DVD’s to help guide users. The best exercises for seniors using resistance bands are those for shoulders, arms, and back. Be careful, however, to follow the instructions carefully. If improperly used, resistance bands can cause serious injury. Seniors should not use resistance bands with a resistance greater than 15lbs.
A strong core is essential for strength and stability. There are two options for building a stronger core: floor exercises and the stability ball. The stability ball is by far the better option because it helps build abdominal muscles as well as improve balance. Again, most stability balls come with instructions and exercise DVD’s to help guide users. It is important to follow directions carefully because stability balls can pose a danger to seniors if used improperly.
Other exercise equipment to stay active at home.
There are a variety other types of equipment for home workouts, such as adjustable dumbbells, specialized machines, and home treadmills. However, the above mentioned three pieces of equipment are an optimal starting point for seniors looking to improve their fitness because they are cost effective, do not take up much room, and allow users to cover most of the basic exercises needed to get started. It is recommended that seniors devote at least one hour per day to physical activity to see lasting, positive benefits to a fitness program.
About the Author
Christophe Adrien, also known as The Viking Trainer, is a Certified Fitness Trainer (C.F.T.) and Certified Specialist in Fitness Nutrition (S.F.N.) with a Master’s Degree from Oregon State University. He is a lifelong fitness enthusiast who lives with his wife and son in beautiful Bend, OR.