Actually, they are more than what you may be wearing. SilverSneakers are fitness programs for seniors provided by more than 70 health plans across the country. And while SilverSneakers often include health club memberships, fitness for seniors should focus on physical activity which may or may not involve a gym.
Sadly, problems with mobility among seniors is widespread. About 17 percent of seniors age 65 or older can’t walk even one-quarter of a mile, and another 28 percent have difficulty doing so.
That said, getting physical activity on a regular basis can enable older people to recover strength and flexibility and become less likely to develop long-term disability, new research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine shows. This research comes from a study of people with high risk of mobility issues: men and women age 70 to 89 who were sedentary, had some difficulty with daily activities but were still able to walk a quarter mile without assistance.
The goal of this study was to have participants meet the government’s recommended standard of 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week and sustain that level over time. Results confirmed the exceptional benefit of physical activity which has been shown in previous studies to lower an individual’s risk of heart disease, cognitive impairment, diabetes, depression and some cancers.
The good news for seniors is that it’s never too late to begin physical activity. What’s important is the emphasis on movement and not necessarily “exercise”. Older adults may identify exercise with younger people, however the physical activity in general is the critical component. A simple walk in the park or neighborhood can make a big difference.
If a participant is new to fitness, start slow. An older person may not be able to walk a quarter mile the first day, but every little bit helps. There is no need to try to do everything at once; smaller, achievable goals are better as a beginning. And, perhaps most essential, is that an individual make a plan or schedule and stick to it.