Nearly everyone born in the Baby Boomer generation are old enough to officially retire in the United States. But, retiring from a career does not mean that it is time to retire from life. Baby Boomers have been embracing the trend of healthy living for decades and they are continuing to practice living healthy lifestyles well into their 60s and 70s.
What is keeping Baby Boomers from exercising
As Baby Boomers become septuagenarians, exercising is still important. But, instead of the intensity of the workout being important, the focus should be on reaching an aerobic heart rate and building strength. According to a study published in BMJ, a lack of physical activity causes nearly 3.2 million deaths per year. In the industrialized world, this number is attributed to:
- High blood pressure
- High blood glucose
- Lack of physical activity
How exercising helps Boomers
In the same study, the benefits of exercising extended beyond physical health. Researchers found that Baby boomer who regularly exercise saw cognitive benefits that included improved attention and increased cognitive speed.
As people are living longer, it is important that health care providers address exercise with their older patients. According to the same study, governments around the globe are making recommendations for older adults, but health care providers need to be able to adjust those recommendations to fit their patients’ unique needs and abilities. The World Health Organization set weekly recommendations for people over 65, they include
- 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity
- At least 10-minute intervals of sustained aerobic activity
- For more health benefits, an additional 300 minutes of moderate or 150 minutes of vigorous activity
- Three or more days with balance exercises
- Two or more days with strengthening exercises
- Being as physically active as possible
How to measure activity intensity
Understanding the intensity differentiation between exercises is important for Baby Boomers. Exercises are measured in METS and the measuring tools can be found through a study published in Medicine and Science in Sports Exercise. METS have been set for exercises, physical activities, volunteer and religious activities, occupational activities, and more. One MET is expended while sitting quietly and activities with METS below 3.5 do not affect the body’s quality of health. There are over 800 codes and levels set for activities. To get an understanding of how different activities rank, take a look at these samples:
- Leisurely cycling around 5.5 MPH is 3.5 METS
- Tap dancing is 4.8 METS
- Sweeping outside is 4.0 METS
- Playing shuffleboard is 3.0 METS
Mowing the lawn with light effort is 4.5 METS
Suggestions for moderate-intensity activities
So what activities are healthy choices for older adults? With the recommendations from the W.H.O., the activities that benefit Baby Boomers who are physically capable include activities like
- Brisk walking
- Light jogging
- Bicycling on flat, paved ground
- Light swimming
- Water aerobics
- Gentle yoga
- Doubles pickleball
- Slow-pitch softball
- Elliptical trainers, treadmills, or stationary bikes
Specific workouts for older adults
If you’re not sure where to start, you can try some of these workouts for older adults in your own home. Specifically, you can use low-impact exercise equipment such as a BOSU® Balance Trainer. This balance equipment is great for exercises that maximum your health as you get older. The BOSU® program uses a combined aerobic and strengthening approach with a variety of exercises including:
- Bubble Wrap Game (good for fall prevention)
- Bilateral and Unilateral Bridges (good for fall prevention)
- Infinity Walk (good for cardio training)
- Knee Lift (good for balance and core strengthening)
- Unilateral Heel Raise (good for balance)
Try out some of these workouts in order to boost your balance and get the low-impact cardio you need to stay healthy. You can even do these exercises in the privacy of your home, or hire a trainer to walk you through the steps. In addition, BOSU® offers an exercise library where you can incorporate new workout routines using your balance equipment.
Aerobic activity tips
One of the best ways to understand if you are working hard enough is to know what you should be experiencing while exercising. If you are exercising at a moderate pace, you should notice your heart rate and breathing rate increase. You should be able to continue talking during moderate-intensity activities. Singing might be difficult, however. You should not be struggling to breathe, or needing to take a break to catch your breath.
If you are finding it difficult to get 30 minutes of activity into your day, you can always break up the 30 minutes into three 10-minute bursts of activity. It doesn’t matter if the 30 minutes are all together, but to get physical activity into your day. If this is difficult, get a step counter or fitness band so you can measure how active you are during the day.
Strength training tips
Strength training is also recommended for seniors. This type of training can be confusing for seniors because strength training is thought of as weight lifting. For seniors, strength training does not have to include weights or barbells, huffing and puffing, and posing in the mirror. What it should include is exercising all of the muscle groups at least twice per week.
Prior to undertaking strength training activities, have a chat with your health care provider. You should talk about any aches and pains you may have, as well as concerns about your respiratory and cardiovascular health.
If you are given the ok to begin strength training, it can be helpful to work with a personal trainer. You can learn about different exercises that are best for your ability and how to do them properly. Personal trainers can even arrange fun routines that have enough variety to keep you interested and engaged. They can show you how to use exercise bands, light free weights, and other tools of the trade. If the price of a trainer is prohibitive, you can always go in with a friend and split the expenses.
Intensity and scheduling tips
When you begin a new exercise routine, you might be tempted to push yourself as hard as you can. This might have been acceptable to do when you were younger, but it should not be the way you exercise now. Instead, be gentle with yourself so you can keep exercising for a longer amount of time. If you push yourself, you could hurt yourself and then have to stop exercising so you can have time to recover.
Once you begin exercising, stick with it. You will be pleasantly surprised at how quickly you will notice little changes. But, if you give up, you won’t see any of those benefits and any gains you’ve made will stop. Along with not quitting, it is also wise to not overdo it. The body does need time to recover, so many Boomers find it helpful to exercise every other day, rather than every day. You will eventually figure out exactly what works for your body, your schedule, and your physical well being.
About Dr. Wells
Serving Wasilla, Anchorage, and the surrounding communities, Dr. Brent Wells offers patient-centered, personalized, and innovative chiropractic care. A California native, Dr. Wells earned a bachelor’s of science degree from the University of Nevada. He then attended Western States Chiropractic College in Portland, Oregon. In 1998, he and his wife Coni moved to Alaska and opened Better Health Chiropractic in Wasilla. He is a proud member of the American Chiropractic Association and the American Academy of Spine Physicians.