We have all heard of the many benefits of a regular exercise program and the positive impact it can make on our health. As we age, exercise becomes essential to maintain our range of motion and physical ability.

Let’s review the exercise recommendations for the older adult. The American Heart Association recommends a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity on most days of the week and two to three days of strength training, balance and flexibility training for older adults.

Let me explain each of these components:

• Aerobic, or “with oxygen” exercises provide cardiovascular conditioning. Also referred to as endurance training, these activities will increase your heart rate and breathing. According to the National Institute of Health these activities can delay or prevent many diseases that are common as we age such as diabetes, colon and breast cancers, heart disease and others. Examples include brisk walking, yard work, dancing, jogging, swimming and biking. Try to get at least 30 minutes of consecutive aerobic exercise, however, you can split it up into two sessions of 15 minutes or three sessions of 10 minutes if needed.

• Strength training will increase your muscle strength. This type of activity involves using weights, resistance bands or your own body weight. Also referred to as resistance training, this type of activity can be important for maintaining independence. As we age we tend to lose muscle strength which can begin to affect our activities of daily living. You would want to incorporate both your upper and lower body in your routine.

• Balance training becomes important as we age to reduce our risk of falling. Balance activities will improve your lower body and core strength. This type of training will improve your stability and confidence. Standing on one foot, the heel-to-toe walk and tai chi have been shown to improve your balance.

• Flexibility exercises are meant to improve or maintain your range of motion and keep you limber. Flexibility exercises, otherwise known as stretching, can reduce injury, improve posture and are typically part of a cool down routine. One example of flexibility exercise is yoga.

Keep in mind, you always want to warm up and cool down with any exercise routine. An active warm-up should be done for 5-10 minutes.

If you plan to walk, your warm-up would be to walk slower than your typical pace.

As explained above, cooling down usually involves stretching the muscles used for another 5-10 minutes at the end of your routine.

The Jackson County Senior Center, available for those age 50 and up, has many different exercise classes throughout the week on an ongoing basis. To check out our calendar of activities, visit www.aging.jacksonnc.org or call 586-5494 today.

Laura Rodi is the health and wellness manager at the Department on Aging Senior Center.