Spring is just around the corner. With the COVID vaccines underway, the coming months are going to be a time for new beginnings and fresh starts. You will be able to leave your home more, maybe go to the gym, or even join an exercise class. Online fitness classes continue to offer a variety of options. It’s a good time to re-evaluate your exercise plan and think not only about what your body needs but what you enjoy – especially if you’re older.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, by age 75 one in three men and one in two women do not engage in any physical activity. That’s zero exercise. None. But getting 30 to 60 minutes of exercise a day is proven to reduce many symptoms of diseases. 

Luke Frank, manager of Opal Memory Care for Murano Senior Living, one of many Leisure Care Communities, and the organizer of the PrimeFit exercise program, says seniors are often surprised by how much exercise they get just moving around during the day. And when making an exercise plan, they should be open to new types of movement.

“Maybe you never thought you’d enjoy strength training exercise, but there it is,” Frank says. “You try new things and see what happens.” 

Frank says it’s important that each person has a tailored exercise plan designed to reduce their specific disease symptoms. Here are some of the most common problems and how movement can help. 

Balance problems: The CDC says physical activity helps seniors reduce the risk of falling and fracturing bones. 

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Frank agrees and says most balance problems can be traced back to inactivity. “When you have atrophy in your muscles, you have a longer reaction time and a higher risk of falls,” he says. “So you really have to look at strength training to reduce the problem.” 

Leisure Care Murano has partnered with Virtual Care to provide access to online classes residents can take in their rooms. “Classes target arthritis, fall prevention, balance issues, flexibility and other common challenges seniors face. flexibility, cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation, and more.  All classes are presented by experienced physical, occupational and speech therapy specialists through live and prerecorded sessions,” explains Sumedha Kukreja OT, MBA. 

Movement disorders: Exercise is crucial to helping people with movement disorders maintain healthy muscles, bones and joints and to improve stamina and muscle strength. But it goes beyond that for those with Parkinson’s disease. 

According to Jennifer Gillick, the program director for the Northwest chapter of the American Parkinson Disease Association (APDA), “There are a wealth of studies saying that exercise is almost the only thing that slows the progression of the disease. Exercise and medication management are critical.”

But how much exercise is enough and what type of exercise is best? Gillick says that about 150 minutes a week is recommended. That should include some intense time at a higher heart rate and also, because the disease tends to limit movements, she recommends focusing on big motions – like taking longer strides and swinging your arms. 

Gillick also recommends patients find specific programs for their movement disorder and their favorite forms of exercise. For example, there are yoga, boxing and tai chi classes that are adapted for Parkinson’s patients. 

Heart conditions: Exercise is important for anyone who struggles with this condition because heart disease is the leading cause of death for people 65 and over. And exercise is shown to reduce the risk of dying from coronary heart disease and developing high blood pressure.

The CDC recommends each person get about 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise like brisk walking or bicycling every week. Programs like PrimeFit include options like stationary bikes or push-pull machines that can be done safely indoors.

Dementia and Alzheimer’s: Not only does exercise reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, it improves mood and feelings of wellbeing. Furthermore, studies have shown that people who exercise have fewer Alzheimer’s plaques and tangles in the brain and perform better on cognitive tests.   

Currently, Frank works with dementia patients at Murano Senior Living and sees many of them struggle with depression because their world is changing rapidly. But when they exercise their bodies release endorphins that protect the brain and help them feel better.

Keep moving

With the senior population where the diseases and symptoms vary so greatly, it’s often helpful to work with a program that creates a custom exercise plan.

“I think it’s important to keep the big picture in front of you,” Frank says. “What is it that you’re doing this for? Maybe you want to be able to go shopping or to a baseball game with your grandkids. When you think of that big picture, the minutes you spend getting your body tuned up are really small.”

Murano Senior Living is a vibrant community in the heart of First Hill offering independent living, assisted living and specialized memory care with no buy-in requirements and elevated amenities like PrimeFit, innovative design and unparalleled dining.