It’s no secret that cardio exercises are essential for a healthy heart.
But did you know that some cardio exercises are better for older adults than others?
In this blog post, we’ll take a look at how often you should do cardio, the different types of cardio exercises and how they can benefit older adults.
We’ll also provide 5 tips on how to make sure you’re getting the most out of your cardio workouts so you can stay fit in your 60s and beyond.
How Often Should Seniors Do Cardio Exercises?
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week.
If you’re just starting out (or coming back from a long exercise hiatus) you can break this down into smaller chunks of time throughout the week.
For example, you can do 30 minutes of cardio five days a week instead of going hard for an hour less frequently.
And if you’re looking for a more challenging workout, the AHA also recommends doing at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity per week.
But what if you’re not able to meet these guidelines? The important thing is to just do what you can, listen to your body, and gradually increase your cardio workouts over time. As they state, “a little means a lot.”
Types of Exercise
When most people think of cardio, they think of running or biking. But cardio can be so much more than that, so feel free to get creative (and even silly).
Dancing, hula-hooping, doing household chores, and even taking the stairs are all cardio exercises. Some are more fun than others (let’s face it who likes taking the stairs or vacuuming).
Generally, though, there are two main types of exercise: aerobic and anaerobic.
Aerobic exercise is any type of activity that gets your heart rate up and keeps it there for an extended period of time. This includes activities like walking, jogging, swimming, or cycling.
Anaerobic exercise, on the other hand, is a more high-intensity form of exercise that is typically done in short bursts. This includes things like sprinting or interval training.
Both types of exercise are important for overall health, and aerobic cardio exercises are especially beneficial for older adults.
Benefits of Aerobic & Anaerobic Exercise for Older Adults
Any type of exercise is good for you. But benefits differ based on the exercises you choose.
Aerobic exercise helps to increase the size and efficiency of the heart, which can lead to improved blood flow and better cardiovascular health. It can also lower blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels, and reduce the risk of heart disease.
What’s more, aerobic exercise can help to improve cognitive function and memory, and it can also help to reduce the risk of falls in older adults.
While aerobic exercise is often recommended for its ability to improve cardiovascular health, anaerobic exercise can also be beneficial for older adults. This type of activity can help to improve muscle strength, power, and endurance.
Ultimately, it depends on your goals. We’d recommend having a healthy balance of the two types of cardio included in your workout routine.
Tips to Make the Most Out of Cardio
#1 Start By Warming Up
As you age, your bodies become less efficient at delivering oxygen to our muscles. This is due to a decrease in the number of red blood cells and the loss of elasticity in our arteries.
As a result, older adults need to warm up for longer periods of time before engaging in cardiovascular exercise. Warming up helps to increase the heart rate and deliver more oxygen to the muscles.
It also helps to reduce the risk of injuries by loosening up the joints and ligaments.
A good warm-up should last for at least 10 minutes and include some light cardio exercises such as walking or jogging in place.
#2 Choose the Right Type for You
Not all cardio exercises are created equal. When choosing a cardio exercise, it’s important to consider your fitness level and goals.
Better yet, create a specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-based (SMART) goal to hold you accountable to the results you want.
If you’re just starting out, it’s best to choose an activity that’s low-impact and easy on the joints, such as swimming or light home workouts.
As you become more fit, you can gradually increase the intensity of your workouts by adding in some high-impact cardio exercises, like running or jump rope if your joints are healthy enough to handle the impact.
No matter what type of cardio exercise you choose, be sure to listen to your body and definitely stop if you feel any pain or discomfort.
#3 Drink Plenty of Water
It’s important to stay hydrated regardless of any type of physical activity. So it goes without saying, when you’re exercising, you should drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration.
We recommend drinking water before, during, and after your workout. Studies suggest that drinking only when you’re thirsty impacts your performance — so don’t wait that long.
One way to make sure you’re drinking enough water during your cardio workout is to bring a water bottle with you and take a sip every few minutes or after every circuit.
And if you’re exercising for more than 30 minutes, you may also need to replenish your electrolytes by drinking a sports drink such as Gatorade or Powerade.
#4 Nourish Your Body
Nutrition is your best friend when it comes to exercising. Eating a healthy diet will help improve your energy levels and stamina.
To refuel your body make sure you’re getting enough protein and carbohydrates. Protein helps to repair and rebuild muscle tissue, while carbohydrates provide the energy needed for cardio workouts.
A good rule of thumb is to eat a small meal or snack that contains both protein and carbs within 30 minutes of completing your workout. Some yummy post-workout snacks to consider:
- yogurt with fruit
- whole-grain toast with peanut butter
- a banana with a handful of nuts
- a protein shake or smoothie
Snacks like these will help your body recover and prepare for your next session.
#5 Rest & Recover
Take a few days off each week to allow your body time to rest and recover. This is especially important as you age since your body needs more time to repair and rebuild muscle tissue.
Active recovery days are also important and they involve low-intensity cardio exercises or light stretches, which help to increase blood flow and reduce stiffness and soreness.
By the way, if you’re in need of a good stretching routine, check out these chair yoga poses for older adults.
In a nutshell, take advantage of your days off by doing something you enjoy that isn’t too strenuous, like taking a leisurely walk, stretching, going for a bike ride, or even playing golf.
Just Get Moving
Sometimes it’s difficult to find the motivation to work out, but cardio exercises are vital for the overall health of older adults.
Whether you’re just starting out or you’re a seasoned exercise enthusiast, these tips will help you make the most out of your cardio workouts:
- #1 Start by warming up — warmups increase your heart rate gradually and reduces the risk of injury
- #2 Choose the right type for you — pick exercises suited for your fitness level, goals, and ones that you actually enjoy doing
- #3 Drink plenty of water — stay hydrated and drink plenty of water before, during, and after your workout
- #4 Nourish your body — cardio can be taxing on your body, so eat a healthy meal or snack after your workout
- #5 Rest & recover — recovery is often underestimated, so be sure to give your body time to rest and recover between workouts
And remember that it’s about doing even just a little — and doing it consistently. So find an activity you enjoy, and make cardio part of your regular routine.
Soon enough, you’ll be reaping the many benefits cardio has to offer.