Exercise: Exercises to Try
To get all of the benefits of physical activity, try all four types of exercise -- endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility. This section discusses endurance activities.
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Activities That Increase Breathing and Heart Rate
Endurance exercises are activities that increase your breathing and heart rate for an extended period of time. Examples are walking, jogging, swimming, raking, sweeping, dancing, and playing tennis. Build up your endurance gradually, starting with as little as 5 minutes of endurance activities at a time, if you need to. Then try to build up to at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity endurance activity on most or all days of the week. Doing less than 10 minutes at a time won't give you the desired heart and lung benefits.
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- Do a little light activity, such as easy walking, before and after your endurance activities to warm up and cool down.
- Drink liquids when doing any activity that makes you sweat.
- Dress appropriately for the heat and cold. Dress in layers if you're outdoors so you can add or remove clothes as needed.
- When you're out walking, watch out for low-hanging branches and uneven sidewalks.
- Walk during the day or in well-lit areas at night, and be aware of your surroundings.
- To prevent injuries, use safety equipment such as helmets for biking.
- Endurance activities should not make you breathe so hard that you can't talk and should not cause dizziness or chest pain.
Moderate Endurance Activities to Try
Here are some examples of moderate endurance activities for the average older adult. Older adults who have been inactive for a long time will need to work up to these activities gradually.
- walking briskly on a level surface
- gardening, mowing, raking
- cycling on a stationary bicycle
- playing tennis
Vigorous Endurance Activities to Try
These are examples of activities that are vigorous. People who have been inactive for a long time or who have certain health risks should not start out with these activities.
- playing basketball
- climbing stairs or hills
- shoveling snow
- brisk bicycling up hills
- digging holes
Work Your Way Up Gradually
Gradually working your way up is especially important if you have been inactive for a long time. It may take months to go from a very long-standing sedentary lifestyle to doing some of the activities suggested in this section.
When you're ready to do more, build up the amount of time you spend doing endurance activities first, then build up the difficulty of your activities. For example, gradually increase your time to 30 minutes over several days to weeks (or even months, depending on your condition) by walking longer distances. Then walk more briskly or up steeper hills.