The 2016 Summer Olympics will take place in Rio de Janeiro from Aug. 5-21. Many of us are excited to see our favorite athletes engage in friendly, international competition.
The modern Olympics have inspired people the world over for more than a century. And they don’t just inspire young, aspiring competitors. They inspire seniors, too.
Here are four fitness lessons you can learn from retired Olympians. Use them to stay in shape, so that you can continue living well into the future!
1. Try yoga.
Yoga exercise is isometric. Rather than relying on repetitive curling or lifting of weights, yoga requires the exerciser to tense muscles and hold the body in specific poses. This type of exercise makes muscles more limber and toned.
That makes yoga an excellent exercise regimen for seniors who want to improve their mobility as they improve their strength. Greg Louganis, the 56-year-old former diver who won gold for the United States in the 1988 Seoul Olympics, performs a yoga routine every morning.
"With exercise, sometimes it is harder to get motivated, but you feel so much better afterward," he told AARP’s senior fitness blog.
1984 Los Angeles gold medal gymnast Bart Conner, 58, also incorporates yoga into his daily fitness regimen.
"I do a mini-yoga routine,” he told AARP. “When I stretch, I think, I remember how good that feels."
2. Take spinning classes.
No, they have nothing to do with yarn. Spinning classes are instructor-led, group fitness courses that use stationary bike exercises to improve participants’ cardiovascular health, endurance and strength. And they’re another critical part of Louganis’ workout regimen.
They’re also wonderful for seniors who can’t undergo the strain of full weight training. Many spinning classes now make use of recumbent (reclining) bikes, which can reduce strain on aging knees, hips and spines.
3. Walk, jog or run.
Most Olympic athletes incorporate running into their regular workout regimens, including 3-time 1976 Montreal gold medalist Nadia Comaneci, who is now 54 years old. Comaneci works out three times a week, for a half hour at a time. For half of each workout session, she runs or walks.
"I've figured out what works for me, something that I can basically do the rest of my life," she said, when interviewed by AARP.
Seniors whose mobility issues prevent full-speed running or jogging can still realize fitness benefits and limber up by walking regularly. It improves cardiovascular health, burns excess fat and may even help prevent serious fall-related injuries by halting bone density loss.
One study of post-menopausal women by Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital found that 30 minutes of walking each day reduced older women’s risk of hip fractures by as much as 40 percent.
And a regular walking or running regimen may help to prolong your life! According to the Arthritis Foundation, researchers at the University of Michigan Medical School published research showing that people in their early senior years — 50s and 60s — are 35 percent less likely to die over the next eight years than people of the same age who don’t walk regularly.
4. If you can, lift weights.
Weight circuit training is one of the best ways seniors can stay fit. Even exercises performed with light weights can provide a strong health benefit, burning fat, strengthening and toning muscles, improving mobility and increasing seniors’ overall metabolic rates.
Many people best remember Olympic gold medalist and boxer George Foreman for his 1994 knockout victory against Michael Moorer which, occurring when he was 45 years old, made him the oldest heavyweight boxing champion in history.
Now 67 years old, Foreman reported to AARP that he still engages in daily weight training, in addition to pool exercises and recumbent bike riding.
Your fitness program should never stop.
Any movement is good movement. Any exercise is good exercise. It’s important for seniors to make sure they stay active and fit, so that they can live well for as long as possible. Use these lessons from former Olympians to get inspired, get moving and get stronger!