Fitness and Heart Health For Older Adults


As we approach Spring, the weather is warming up and more and more people are getting outside for exercise. From walks to bikes rides to tennis, after being cooped up for much of the last few months, it’s finally time to get out and enjoy the outdoors.

In doing so, it’s not just a function of enjoying milder weather – for older adults, you’re helping your heart too.

As we age, it’s more vital than ever to be aware of our heart health, as cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in those 65 and older. Furthermore, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every 40 seconds, someone in the United States has a heart attack.

There are steps we can take to remain safe and prevent heart disease, including knowing your risk factors, and practicing proper nutrition.

But fitness is one of the best ways to ensure heart health. And even if fitness has never been part of your lifestyle, it’s never too late to start. The CDC recommends adults 65 and older take part in 150 minutes per week of exercise – that sounds like a lot, but it really just equals 30 minutes a day, five days a week.

Furthermore, according to the American Heart Association, older adults who take approximately 4,500 steps per day are 77% less likely to experience a cardiovascular event than people who take fewer than 2,000 steps per day. And adding just an additional 500 steps per day can decrease your chances of heart disease, stroke and heart failure by 14%.

As you might expect, with heart disease in mind, cardiovascular activity is paramount. But experts also recommend strength and balance exercises as well for better overall health and fall prevention.

In this blog, we offer recommendations on activities that can help with heart health. Of course, before starting any new fitness program, it’s a good idea to talk to your primary care physician as they can help you determine what activities are best for you and your ability level and comfort.

Low-Impact Fitness Options

If you’re just getting started in fitness, or are recovering from an injury or illness, it’s a good idea to go with what’s comfortable for you. Some low-impact options include:

  • Walking
  • Seated exercises, like marching in place
  • Balance exercises
  • Working out with light weights, (for instance, start with 3-pound dumbbells)
  • Daily activities like gardening, vacuuming, etc. can also be ways to get up and get your body moving.

You can create fun challenges with yourself for walking. Track your progress and see if over the course of a few months you can walk the equivalent distance of your state, or multiple states.

When working with weights, we recommend at least one session with a trainer, if not more, to learn proper form and which exercises and weights are right for you.

Higher-Impact Fitness Options

If you’re a little more advanced in fitness, here are some additional options:

  • Swimming or water aerobics; in addition to the fitness benefits, being in the water reduces the pounding on joints and muscles.
  • Walking/hiking/jogging
  • Tennis/pickleball
  • Yoga/pilates
  • Bike riding
  • Strength exercises with incrementally heaver weights as you progress.
  • Dance classes

Many cities have a community recreation center or senior center with classes led by instructors knowledgeable about the fitness needs of older adults. There are also organization like Silver Sneakers, with fitness programming specific to the needs of older adults.  

Using The Buddy System

No matter your age, starting a new fitness program is always easier if you have a partner. Whether it’s a spouse, family member, friend or just new people at a gym, exercising with a partner, or partners, helps build accountability. After all, it’s harder to quit if you know it will impact someone else. Having a partner also gives you someone to celebrate triumphs with and help each other through challenges.

Also, working out with others is great for an older adult’s social life. Loneliness and isolation are all too common for older adults, but if you’re able to get out and get moving with others, it builds friendships and camaraderie. And hey, maybe you can carry on a conversation after the workout at Starbucks or at lunch!

Sticking With It

Starting a workout plan is one thing, sticking with it is another. There’s a reason why gyms get really busy the first week of January, and then thin out by the end of the month.

First and foremost, find activities that are fun. If you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, it becomes more difficult to continue day in and day out. And while not every exercise will be your favorite, it’s important to find activities you look forward to taking part in, and aren’t just something to be endured.

Along with fun and friends, it helps to just make fitness part of your lifestyle. Start by actively scheduling it into your days in advance. Whether it’s first thing in the morning, or after you’ve had something to eat, or maybe in the afternoon, find a time of day that works for you and block off time for exercise.

Having it in your calendar helps keep you accountable, and before long, it just becomes part of your regular habits.

Heart Health And Fitness At Prestige

At Prestige Senior Living, we truly take the health and wellness of our residents to heart.

We understand the importance of heart health to older adults, and our programming and care are designed with a focus on cardiovascular well-being.

We boast innovative fitness programming that helps residents build strength, reduce falls, and live heart healthy. With cardio, strength and balance training, our wellness coaches use best practices to promote heart health and longevity in our residents.

To learn more about heart health at Prestige Senior Living, find the community nearest you to get in touch. You might have the option to join one of Prestige’s fitness classes, as well as speak to the team about any heart concerns you may have for yourself or a loved one, and how our programming can help.