The benefits of regular exercise for seniors are huge. The evidence shows clearly that active seniors have a far lower risk of heart disease, strokes, dementia and even some forms of cancer. Exercise has been shown to improve mental health among the elderly, and it is also a great group exercise to bring older people together.
That's why it is surprising that older people often tend to overlook the role that technology can play in keeping them fit and healthy. If used properly, devices like smartphones and fitness trackers can help to formulate exercise plans, monitor your heart rate and keep you motivated -- so they are well worth using. Here are a few tips for how seniors can use wearable technology to their advantage.
Find the Right Fitness Tracker For Your Personal Needs
First off, you need to find the right equipment for the job. If you are more capable with tech, a mainstream fitness tracker like a FitBit could be ideal. These devices are worn on the wrist or around the chest, and directly monitor things like your pulse rate, blood pressure, distance traveled and calories burned. If you are confident using digital keypads, they won't take much time to get used to.
For older individuals, there are specialist wearables for seniors that have extra functionality. These medical devices can detect falls. Some, like the Jitterbug include a GPS system that locates the wearer, providing the information to central operators. Others have automatic emergency alarms that connect to responders should an accident happen.
Newer medical wearables bridge the gap between general fitness trackers and specialist medical devices. For example, the Tempo records things like the number of steps you have taken, but also have the capability to alert caregivers if something goes wrong. They can even detect when the routines of seniors begin to change - which could be indication of depression or other health problems.
Decide Which Metrics You Want to Track
When you have found the perfect wearable fitness device, you need to draw up a plan. You will always get more out of technology when you use it to a well defined end, instead of randomly recording data. So spend some time noting down what you want to record, for how long and where you want to get to.
In old age, it's best not to be too ambitious about walking long distances or lifting weights, so be realistic. On the other hand, it can also be easy to underestimate your abilities if you aren't used to regular exercise. If you are unsure, it's a good idea to download specialist fitness programs for seniors. Many of the latest wearables include fitness plans tailored by age, and there should be something that fits your abilities.
For many seniors, measuring your resting heart rate is a first step. This is like a benchmark for where your cardiovascular fitness is at the start of your program. Blood pressure is another useful metric. Look for a resting pulse of between 60 and 80 beats per minute and a blood pressure of below 120/80 and above 90/80. Between those markers is a good place to aim.
Adopt a Simple, Moderate Fitness Regimen
When you have decided upon a program, it's time to start working out. Using your fitness tracker, steadily begin to increase your activity. Modern fitness wearables are great for measuring how many steps you have taken - so lay out a safe route around your neighbourhood that doesn't have too many steps or inclines, and record how far it is. Then increase that by a few steps every day.
Another popular way to calculate the value of your exercise is calories burned. This can become an obsession for younger fitness lovers, but for seniors keeping weight off might be less crucial. In any case, knowing how many calories you have burned is a good indication of how hard your muscles have been working. Look to burn a couple of hundred calories every day, and step that up or down depending on your energy and strength.
Use Your Computer or Phone to Display Your Achievements
One of the great things about fitness wearables is the ability to link them up with laptops and phones. This makes them much more powerful in a number of ways. For one thing, you can download fitness plans with instructions about how to carry out certain exercises, running routes and dietary advice. You can also upload your performances to a database and receive professional fitness advice.
These services may or may not be useful for senior fitness tracker users, but the ability to produce clear, informative graphs will be. Use your wearable to send your walking distances or blood pressure to a laptop, and track how well you are doing. You'll be amazed at how motivational an upward trending graph can be. You can see concrete evidence that your efforts are paying off - a huge boost that can make or break your fitness program.
The whole idea of wearing a fitness tracker around your wrist may seem alien to your lifestyle. When you first slip one on, it might seem uncomfortable -- but persevere. Wearable technology can be a real help for seniors who appreciate the value of getting fit and staying healthy, so try to use them as effectively as possible.