Creating a Custom Health Plan for Seniors
Exercising is a crucial part of every individual’s health, and despite what many people may think, exercise is especially important for the overall health of seniors. Why is exercise so important after a certain age? Well, over time, our bodies begin to get weak and frail, and the metabolic process begins to slow causing many people to gain weight, and weight gain can lead to a whole mess of other health complications.
Customizing Health Plans for Seniors
While it is true that everybody grows old, it’s necessary to remember that everybody ages differently. Because of this, it isn’t exactly fair to tell everyone over the age of 55 or 60 that they should be doing the same workouts and eating the same healthy diet. One individual may have spent his or her entire adult live running marathons and running competitively, while others may have done the bare minimum. Some individuals have disorders and illnesses that make certain types of exercise and diets unsafe. This is why it is important for seniors, or those helping to care for seniors, to devise an exercise and diet plan that suits the individual’s needs.
Consulting a Physician
First and foremost, talk to a doctor prior to making any drastic changes in a senior’s exercise routine or eating habits. Physicians can facilitate this process and make sure the individual is truly being safe and healthy. A trusted physician, especially one who sees the senior regularly, can recommend a proper diet and exercise regimen, tweaking it to the specific wants and needs of the individual. They may also express their opinions on any exercises that they may feel would be unsafe or cause harm to the individual.
Prior to beginning a daily (or weekly) exercise regimen, be sure to understand the three most common forms of exercise for seniors. Understanding each of these variations of physical exercise will help reduce any risk of injury.
- Flexibility – Flexibility exercises typically target the muscle groups and focuses on stretching all major muscles in the body. Popular flexibility exercises for seniors include Yoga, Pilates and designing a regular stretching routine. These exercises help prevent stiffness, as well as decrease the chances of muscle-related injuries. As with all forms of exercise, the individual should consult a physician to be sure that his or her body is capable of these activities. For example, seniors with balance problems may not want to partake in certain variations of standing stretches.
- Strength – Strength exercises build and maintain the muscle seniors need to continue with everyday activities, such as shopping and moving things about the house. Suitable strength exercises for seniors include wrist curls, arm curls, toe stands and more. Seniors should only participate in strength exercises about two to three times a week. Consult a physician if you have questions or concerns about the abilities of a senior to complete strength exercises.
- Aerobic/Cardio – Cardio vascular exercises, often called aerobic exercises, are meant to increase a senior’s heart and breathing rate through activities such as running, walking, hiking, biking, swimming and more! The ultimate goal is for an individual to complete 30 minutes of cardio exercise daily, although this is difficult for many people, no matter what their age. If a senior is unable to complete this, start small with ten minutes per day, and gradually work up to a new goal. If a senior feels unsafe completing these exercises, try activities like riding a stationary exercise bike, and of course, talk to a physician about any further questions or concerns.
While creating a diet plan, or planning meals for the week, it’s important to acknowledge the needs of the senior. Does he or she have any vitamin deficiencies? Has his or her physician recommended eating more protein, fruits, vegetables, etc.? The nutrition needs of seniors change based on digestive system changes, appetite changes, metabolic changes and the need for more vitamins, such as B12.
Whether a senior is creating his or her own custom health plan, or a caregiver is assisting the individual in the process, it is imperative that the regimen is constituted with care, knowledge, and safety. Again, consult a physician before starting a senior on a new exercise or diet routine.