Exercise equipment that will make you feel like a world class athlete
One thousand one, one thousand two. Click.
Two seconds. Two seconds between Usain Bolt, the world record holder in the 100-meter dash, and Ronald Taylor, the world record holder for men over 60. If that doesn’t blow your mind, then fathom this: the world record holder for men over 70, Bobby Whilden, would have finished in this hypothetical race a mere second behind Taylor.
A long time ago, the four-minute mile was considered impossible until young, skinny Roger Bannister eclipsed the mark in 1954. He was 25 at the time. In 2011, 62-year-old Nolan Shaheed ran the 1500-meter (the rough equivalent of a mile) in 4:24.
For women over 60, it’s more of the same – astounding times and amazing records. For example, the fastest senior woman alive is Canada’s Karla Del Grande, who ran the 100-meter dash in 13.63 seconds in 2014. Compare that to the overall female record holder in the 100, Florence Griffith Joyner, who set the world record in 1988 with a time of 10.49 seconds. Bernadette Portenski of New Zealand owns the over-60 world record in the marathon with a time of 3:01:30. She was 61 at the time.
What Does This Means for Seniors
The take-away is that the aging process need not be a time of physical decline. While it may indeed be a time of decline for a lot of people, it’s often due to a personal choice to be inactive, a needless surrender to a sedentary lifestyle.
World senior athletic records (Look them up. You’ll be amazed.) are impressive enough at face value, but consider that these records were set by seniors who continued to train rigorously after passing their prime years. Most don’t do that, so imagine what the senior records might be if more seniors trained in athletic disciplines.
Physical activity for seniors, whether they’re after gold medals or just getting better at mowing the lawn is vital. It is the single most important element in improving cardio-vascular health, which in turn benefits overall health.
Benefits of Exercise for Seniors
The benefits of exercise are well-established and include:
- Improved strength
- Improved balance
- Improved energy level
- Improved cardio-vascular health
- Improved memory and cognition
All of these factors – and there are many more – add up to longevity, an enhanced sense of well-being and independence. Yet despite the staggering amount of information available on the topic, seniors seem to fall into two camps – those who choose to be active and those who choose to be couch potatoes.
True, there are debilitating illnesses or injuries that prevent or hinder exercise, but the number one reason seniors become sedentary is because they choose the lifestyle. It didn’t choose them.
There are a number of forms of exercise, with diverse benefits. Probably the most beneficial form of exercise is aerobics – anything that gets the heart pumping and the lungs blowing. Walking is the most obvious activity on the list and one look at the jumbo shopping mall at 7:30 a.m. – before the stores even open – tells you that seniors are taking walking seriously. Also on the list of aerobic exercises are jogging, cycling, dancing and playing sports like tennis.
Strength conditioning is another activity that too many seniors overlook. Muscle atrophy among seniors is practically universal, and the only sure way to maintain muscle tone is through strength training. This can be accomplished through weight lifting, resistance exercises and just plain ole’ hard work that requires some degree of lifting.
Seniors often find they’re not as flexible as they used to be, so flexibility exercises that stretch the muscles are a big help. Yoga is highly recommended for this purpose, as well as for balance.
Scheduling Your Exercises
How, where and when seniors exercise is an important factor, and sometimes is the make-or-break factor in whether or not they stick to an exercise regimen.
Home is the most convenient place, of course, but it might not accommodate all that you might want to do. Walking or jogging in the neighborhood is a great choice, but some neighborhoods aren’t good for walking or jogging.
The “mall-walkers’ club” is an option, but your town might not have a big mall. Also, malls are shutting down all across the nation, so there goes your safe place for a morning stroll. Seniors are joining health clubs in record numbers, and for those who live close enough to a gym to make it worthwhile it’s a fine option. But for those who don’t and for seniors who don’t drive at night, or in inclement weather, the appeal of the gym loses its shine.
So we’re back to the exercise-at-home option for many of you. The good news here is, there is a way to get the aerobic conditioning, strength training and flexibility therapy at home through the use of consumer grade exercise equipment.
While many exercise devices promise weight loss, firm tummies, uplifted tushes and more, many of them are just snake oil, designed for one purpose – to get your money. Stay away from them.
But there are many worthwhile home exercise equipment devices in the marketplace, and they’re worth investing in. Before plunking down cash on one or more of the following devices, make sure you have adequate space for it in your home and that it won’t crimp your style. And above all, make sure you make a pact with yourself that you will regularly use the device, and not let it become the most expensive clothes hanger in the house.
Best Home Gyms for Seniors
If there ever was a you’d-better-mean-business piece of exercise equipment, a home gym would be it. They are the Swiss Army knives of the exercise equipment world, with multiple attachments and adjustments that allow a wide range of exercises for weight training, and to some degree, aerobics. Here are the top two:
For starters, this device, as well as the other one on the list, will dominate whatever room it is placed in. It’s not massive – it only takes up 70 inches x 42 inches of floor space and is 80 inches tall – but it is imposing, with weights, pulleys, handles and a lot of heavy metal.
As seniors are generally empty-nesters with an unused bedroom or two in the house, this might be just the ticket. Otherwise, it may be too cumbersome to be practical.
Consumers can tone muscles pretty much all over, with up to 160 pounds of weights, balanced within a strong framework of 11-gauge steel. The seat post is easily adjustable in a number of heights and forward positions and the cabling and pulleys are heavy duty.
The BSG10X comes 90% pre-assembled. .Delivery is to the curb, and you will need a helper to help lug it in the house. Taking as much as possible out of the box before bringing it in is recommended.
This comes with a 10-year warranty on the frame, but only a one-year warranty on detachable parts, which is a bit of a disappointment. Given the quality of construction, though, that might not even come into play.
Bowflex has been a respected name in the exercise equipment field for decades, and brings quality and ingenuity to the floor mat with this impressive bit of machinery.
All of the resistance is generated with steel bows – called power rods – rather than weights, making the device much more portable than those with weight bars. Users can perform over 25 exercises, in standing or seated positions. The bench converts to a rolling rack so that the machine can effectively mimic the movement of much more expensive rowing machines.
The angles at which the cables and pulleys attach to the bars can be adjusted to provide more or less resistance.
The product information claims that up to 200 pounds of resistance is possible, but that may be limited in how it is achieved. However, that needn’t be a drawback for seniors who only want to tone and maintain muscles, and winning Senior Olympic gold in weightlifting is not on their agenda.
A handy accessory is the media rack, which can hold a smart phone or tablet at just the right height for viewing.
The PR1000 needs around 100 inches of clear floor space, and at 82 inches tall, it would work in a room with a standard eight-foot ceiling, but would be “iffy” in a room with anything less.
Best Treadmills for Seniors
Workin’ hard and gettin’ nowhere might be the theme here, but achieving fitness benefits is certainly a place worth getting to. One of the first pieces of exercise equipment ever developed for home use is the treadmill, with a wide belt and motor that rolls the belt at whatever speed the user selects. This is one of the best devices for cardio-vascular exercise you can get. It has stood the test of time.
Since the exercises possible with a treadmill are limited to either walking or jogging, the criteria for choosing one needs to center on quality.
A word of caution: Seniors with vertigo or balance issues might not be suited for a treadmill. Falls on a treadmill could be particularly damaging.
If your excuse for not getting home exercise equipment is a lack of space, that excuse just flew out the window. The TR1200i folds up into a compact size and can be moved to a closet (admittedly with some effort) or scooted next to a wall.
Driven by a heavy duty 2.5 hp motor, the 20×56-inch walking belt provides sure footing and consistent speed with surprising quiet and comfort. The belt can be inclined at 15 different angles, and the speeds can range from nursing home boot scoot to all-out gallop.
The electronic console comes pre-installed with 21 training programs that can connect to Bluetooth devices to record daily results, or users can opt to go manual (which might be best for seniors).
Seniors who like to hold on for dear life while they walk the treadmill should like the stout handles, but the best cardio result is achieved by letting the arms swing as you would if you were walking outside.
It might be a bit of a bear to assemble. Product manuals recommend a two-person team.
A nice add-on to this model is the one-month membership to iFit, which can aid users in setting goals, evaluating results and determining fitness strategy. The electronic console is also very state-of-the-art, with the ability to stream workouts from the Internet. In some workouts, live trainers have access to the controls of your machine, so the trainer can speed up, slow down or adjust the incline for you. Obviously, this might not be ideal for seniors, unless there are senior-optimized workouts available.
The 20×55-inch walking surface is well-cushioned and the framework is sturdy. The unit is powered by a 2.6hp heavy duty motor, capable of driving the belt at speeds up to 10 miles per hour.
The NordicTrack is foldable for easy storage.
Offering quality at a competitive price, the Xterra might just be the best option for seniors who don’t want a lot of bells and whistles on their treadmill.
This unit has a slightly smaller motor (2.25hp) and narrower walking surface (16 inches wide) and less features on the electronic console, but it is a high-quality unit that gets great ratings. The deck is well-cushioned and easy on joints, and the operation is quiet and smooth.
Forward speeds range from 0-10 mph and the deck has three incline levels.
The side rails (handles) are fairly short, so seniors who hold on while they walk will have to keep pace and stay near the front of the unit.
Best Exercise Bikes for Seniors
Exercise bikes are good for seniors who can’t tolerate a lot of impact in their joints, or have chronic back and hip problems. The recumbent bike is particularly well-suited for use by people with back issues.
The issue with exercise bikes is, unless you really book it (called “spinning” among the fitness elites) they don’t provide as much cardio benefit as treadmills or elliptical machines. This problem can be mitigated by extending the length of the exercise session, or having more frequent sessions.
The tensioning system uses magnets to regulate the amount of resistance provided via eight different increments. An LCD display shows time, distance, calories burned, pulse rate and scan (quick tour through all the readouts).
This is a very non-intrusive machine at 22×20 inches width and length and it sits at 55 inches tall. The bike folds up to roughly half that size.
The beauty of recumbent bikes is how the user is able to sit all the way back against a seat and have his back supported. For some seniors with physical issues, this is a key feature, or even the primary feature.
This unit has Bluetooth, and it can connect to Android or iPhones, where it then connects with the MyCloud Fitness App (free). The console has a pulse reader, and can display distance, calories burned and time. It will also scan all the categories in sequence.
The amount of floor space needed is 54×22 inches and it’s 34 inches high. It’s not foldable, so you will need to place it in a space you don’t need for something else.
As folding bikes seem to be the trend, this one is right in line with most of its competitors. It’s middle-of-the-road in features, offering some perks while keeping the cost down.
A 10-level tensioning system helps you increase your workout level, and the Qiber-Fitness app helps you keep track of it all. A cool feature – that admittedly may not appeal to seniors – is the ability to play games while you pedal, and race fictitious characters or depictions of real people pedaling at the same time.
To facilitate all this electronic magic, the bike comes with an adjustable tablet/smartphone stand.
It can be stored anywhere, and moving it around is made easy with transport wheels at the bottom.
Best Ellipticals for Seniors
An elliptical machine offers the ability to exercise legs and arms at the same time, maximizing the cardio-vascular benefit. A cousin to a ski trainer, it has ski pole-like arms and footrests that move in an arc pattern. With a push-pull motion with the arms and stepping motions with the legs, the user spins a large flywheel that can be set with different amounts of resistance.
An elliptical machine is not for people with back issues, particularly if those issues involve spinal vertebrae.
Schwinn is best known for fat-tire bicycles and perhaps the classic “fan blade” exercise bike of yesteryear, but the company has put out a quality elliptical machine with this model.
With 20 levels of resistance, users can go from a loose and lovely stroll in the meadow to scaling the last 100 meters of Mt. Everest.
The electronic console has 22 workout programs, or the user can bypass them in favor of manual control. It includes a motion-operated phone charger, in case users needed that bit of motivation to start a workout.
Sturdy construction throughout means this is a heavy beast (183 pounds), so wherever you put it, that needs to be its home. It leaves a footprint of 70×28 inches and is 63 inches tall, but users need to consider their own height when deciding where to place the unit, because the elliptical motion raises the user with each stroke. A room with a seven-foot ceiling would probably not work out very well. Ouch.
This is like the Mini Cooper of ellipticals, needing a minimum of floor space, and light enough to push around in the room to make more space when the unit is not being used.
It’s also OK for the family room, where its quiet operation won’t bother anyone else.
Its electronic console is no-frills, but it does include pulse reading and LCD readouts of vital components of the workout.
There are eight resistance levels, and the 13-inch stride length means little to no impact to sensitive senior joints.
The warranty is one of the best around – three years for the frame, parts and labor.