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Physical Fitness

As we age, some decline in physical fitness is inevitable. But scientific research shows that after age 30, sedentary people begin to lose their capacity to do physical activity more quickly than those who remain active – so keep moving.

Exercise doesn’t have to be strenuous to produce positive results. Effective exercise programs should do three things: challenge your heart and lungs aerobically, stretch and strengthen your muscles, and loosen your joints to help with flexibility. Brisk walking, routine housework and gardening all count.

Contact your local parks and recreation department to find structured fitness programs for seniors in your community. Once started, you can do a lot of the exercises at home.

To help determine how much physical activity you need, review the guidelines below for seniors developed by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC.

Flexibility for Safe Driving

Based on research showing that higher levels of fitness programs among seniors were associated with better driving performance, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety developed a series of exercises and stretches to improve neck, shoulder, trunk, back and overall body flexibility.

Flexibility permits drivers to move the entire body and all joints more freely to observe the road from all angles. This can help alert them to potential hazards in unexpected areas on the road and with many driving requirements, such as:

  • Braking
  • Getting in and out of the car
  • Looking to the side and rear
  • Steering
  • Parking the car
  • Adjusting the safety belts
  • Sitting for long periods of time

Good flexibility also helps improve posture and prevent fatigue while driving.

How much physical activity do older adults need?

Physical Activity is Essential to Healthy Aging

As an older adult, regular physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for your health. It can prevent many of the health problems that seem to come with age. It also helps your muscles grow stronger so you can keep doing your day-to-day activities without becoming dependent on others.

Not doing any physical activity can be bad for you, no matter your age or health condition. Keep in mind, some physical activity is better than one at all. Your health benefits will also increase with the more physical activity that you do.

If you’re 65 years of age or older, are generally fit and have no limiting health conditions, you can follow the physical activity guidelines listed below.

For important health benefits, seniors need at least:

2 hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (i.e., brisk walking) every week and muscle strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest shoulders and arms.

OR

1 hour and 15 minutes (75 minutes) of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity (i.e., jogging or running) every weekand muscle-strengthening exercise techniques on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms).

OR

An equivalent mix of moderate-and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity and muscle-strengthening exercise techniques on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms).

Content Source: Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Flexibility Fitness Training for Improving Driver Performance

These exercises were designed to improve flexibility as it relates to driving. Flexibility varies from person to person, so only stretch as far as is comfortable for you, and always stop if you feel pain. Move very slowly when first beginning these exercises. And always consult your physician before beginning any new fitness program.

Shoulder Stretch

1. Bring both shoulders forward as far as possible.
2. Bring both shoulders backwards as far as possible.

Repetition: Ten times.
Useful for: Steering, preventing fatigue, backing up and mirror checks.

 

Chin Flexion-Extension


1. Keep your head facing forward.
2. Bend head forward, touching chin on chest.
3. Tilt head backward until forehead is parallel to the ceiling.

Repetition: Five times in each direction.
Useful for: Adjusting mirrors, preventing fatigue.

 

Feet

 

On long trips, your feet may be some of the first things to fatigue, especially your driving foot. Stiffness, foot or leg cramps, or a foot that falls asleep can all cause crashes. Before a long trip, be sure to exercise your feet, stretch them by moving them from side to side, and even massage them, to prevent fatigue.

 

Neck Rotation


1. Turn neck as far to the right as possible.
2. Turn neck as far to the left as possible.

Repetition: Five times in each direction.
Useful for: Looking over your shoulder to check for blind spots, parallel parking, adjusting mirrors, backing up, fatigue.

 

Press Ups


1. Lie on your stomach with stomach/palms facing downward.
2. Push up with your arms, extending your back, keeping your hands on the ground as you push forward.

Repetition:
 Five times.
Useful for: Keep your back flexible for parallel parking and backing up.

 

 

Trunk Rotation


1. From a sitting position, slowly rotate your trunk, from the waist up, to the left. Try to keep hips in place, facing forward.
2. Return to the forward position.
3. Repeat move to the right.

Repetition: Five times in each direction.
Useful for: Parallel parking, backing up, adjusting mirrors, looking to the side or back.

 

Download a brochure with these exercises >>

Content source: AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety

 

BONUS TIP: 10 MINUTES AT A TIME IS FINE

10 Minutes at a Time is Fine.

We know 150 minutes each week sounds like a lot of time, but it’s not. That’s 2 hours and 30 minutes, about the same amount of time you might spend watching a movie. The good news is that you can spread your activity out during the week, so you don’t have to do it all at once. You can even break it up into smaller chunks of time during the day. It’s about what works best for you, as long as you’re doing physical activities at a moderate or vigorous effort for at least 10 minutes at a time.

Content Source: Center for Disease Control and Prevention.