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Can Too Much Exercise Be Harmful to Seniors?

by Frank Herold

seniors exercisingExercise: it's supposed to be a good thing. Staying active is one of the best ways to improve health and wellness, get stronger, and prevent brain fog from setting in. Seniors, however, must strike a careful balance in order to remain healthy, especially in the later years of their lives or as their health deteriorates. Can too much exercise be harmful to seniors?

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The Impact of Too Much Exercise

Recent studies have revealed that there is such a thing as too much exercise: individuals who exercise vigorously more than 7.5 hours per week are at a higher risk for developing Coronary Artery Calcification, heart damage, and rhythm disorders. This study, however, is aimed at extreme athletes: those who particulate in extremely high-intensity exercise on an extremely regular basis. Triathletes, marathon runners, and ultra marathon runners are most likely to be impacted.

What Does This Mean for Seniors?

For seniors, who are at higher risk for heart problems anyway, the apparent dangers of too much exercise can sound like a blaring warning. As it turns out, however, only the small percentage of extreme athletes who engage in those heavy training programs are genuinely at risk for these issues. In fact, according to the CDC, physical activity is critical to healthy aging--and most people, far from getting too much exercise, are in fact getting too little. It's recommended that most adults get 150 minutes of cardio exercise each week: 30 minutes, at least 5 times per week. While it's certainly possible to overdo it, especially recovering from an injury or illness, most seniors should endeavor to hit those minimum amounts of exercise.

How Can Seniors Get the Right Exercise?

You know that you need plenty of cardio to stay healthy, but it can be difficult to find a routine that works for you. Try some of these ideas for getting more exercise in your daily plan:

  • Try out a class at a local community center or at your senior living facility.
  • Go for walks daily. Try to keep a brisk pace instead of simply wandering along.
  • Get out and garden or engage in another hobby.
  • Go for bike rides.
  • Find a place to go swimming or participate in water aerobics on a regular basis.
  • Try senior yoga.
  • Find a dance class. Everything from Zumba Gold to line dancing will get you moving and having fun at the same time!
  • Try weight training or bodyweight exercises to help stay strong.

What Special Considerations Should Be Taken for Seniors?

For seniors, taking a few precautions is one of the most effective ways to enhance exercise safety and ensure that they won't end up experiencing the negative impacts of too much exercise. These include:

Staying well hydrated. Keep drinking! Plenty of water or, if necessary, sports drinks with added electrolytes, can go a long way toward keeping you healthy when you're exercising.

Paying attention to your body. Getting a little flushed or out of breath is normal for exercise, but if you start feeling dizzy or lightheaded, you should slow down or stop exercise.

Taking it slow. If you're just starting a new exercise routine, don't try to dive in all at once! Instead, slowly work up what you're able to do until your endurance increases.

Letting someone know what you're doing. If you're going for a walk or a hike, make sure that someone knows where you are and when you're expected back.

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