As we age, our bodies tend to slow down and become more fragile. By age 75, about one in three men and one in two women engage in zero physical activity, which puts them at greater risk for injury. In order to prevent health, weight, and pain issues, it’s important to pursue an active lifestyle and build healthy habits that stand the test of time.
Finding an activity that interests your loved one, such as gardening, swimming, or yoga can help seniors stay in shape and maintain their independence. By taking small steps towards building a regular exercise routine, seniors can protect their heart health and improve their overall mood even as they age.
Benefits of Keeping Fit for Seniors
According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, staying active as you age leads to a host of benefits including reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and some forms of cancer. Other perks include:
- Improved balance and flexibility leading to reduced risk of injury from falls
- Reduced joint swelling and pain associated with arthritis
- May reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety and improve well-being
- Builds stamina and muscle strength
- Can lower blood pressure for those with hypertension
- Boosts mental health, confidence, and decision-making processes
Ways Seniors Can Stay Active
If a senior has never exercised before, it can be difficult to know where to begin. Aches, pains, and concerns about injuries can be off-putting for many individuals. However, once you have the motivation to get started, getting regular physical exercise will soon lead to gradual mental and physical improvements that can change your whole being.
It’s all about finding things that you personally enjoy and discovering ways to make small changes in your life. Being mindful of your current level of fitness will help you progress at a safe level during these activities:
Practice mindfulness with tai chi
A suitable exercise for most seniors, tai chi is an ancient martial art characterized by slow, deliberate movements. As a low-impact exercise with many different hand forms, it is great for those who have limited mobility. It can be done without any equipment and both indoors and outdoors, as long as you have an experienced instructor to guide you.
Along with a zen-like relaxation as you flow between the forms, you’ll be able to improve your balance, memory, and coordination. As you grow more stable, your fear of falling will be reduced through this gentle exercise method. There are five different types of tai chi for you to try, with various paces and rhythms.
Try a fun dance workout
Whether you’re interested in dancing with a group or going at it alone, dancing is a great stress-buster and mood-booster. You can learn a new dance routine or just move your body to your favorite songs. With all the good vibes around, you might not even realize you’re improving your cardiovascular fitness and stamina.
If you’re not sure where to start, these online dance classes have a variety of styles and options you can do from the comfort of your home. Jazzercise, ballet, and contemporary dance are just some of the genres you can try. Just be careful to take it slow and stay hydrated!
Go for a relaxing swim
On a hot day, there’s nothing like taking a dip in the pool to cool off and let all your worries go. Even if you don’t have a pool in your home, there are plenty of senior swimming programs at your local community center or gym. Unlike most exercises, pool exercises don’t take a toll on aching joints.
There’s a unique feeling of weightlessness you get in the pool, and you can always choose to do some laps or just float around and release all of that built-up tension. As you work out in the pool, your lung capacity can increase along with your cardiovascular health.
Improve flexibility with yoga
One of the best low-impact activities for seniors out there is yoga. For first-time yoga practitioners, it’s best to attend an in-person class so that you can check your form and position throughout the session. This way, you can reduce the risk of injury and build your confidence over time.
When practiced correctly, yoga can make you more flexible without the associated muscle strain linked with high-intensity forms of exercise. Like all activities, it’s best to start gradually and inform your teacher if you have any joint-related health conditions or feel any pain.
Walk around and explore your neighborhood
If you’re not the biggest fan of exercise, even a walk around your block or town can be a good way to increase your step count and get you up and moving. Find a neighbor or friend to walk with and help you pass the time, or spend some time alone with your thoughts. Who knows, maybe you can discover a new restaurant or hidden coffee shop along the way?
The great thing about walking is that there’s no pressure to memorize a routine or urgency to follow steps. You can do it in your own time, whether it’s the morning, afternoon, or evening. Capturing photographs of things that interest you, taking scenic breaks on a park bench, and finding new routes can be some fun ways to shake up your typical walk.
Get into gardening
If you have a garden, watering your plants and growing fruits and vegetables can be a great way to stay limber and strong. For just 30 minutes a day, it can be highly fulfilling to tend to some greenery and watch it grow over time. In addition to being beautiful and productive, gardening can improve your motor skills and reduce your stress levels.
As a senior, it’s important to take certain precautions along the way. This includes wearing proper sun protection, thick gloves, and investing in garden structures that can reduce stress on your joints. Even with the proper tools and knowledge, taking regular breaks and staying hydrated is key.
Invest in exercise bands or light dumbbells
A budget-friendly way to get in shape for seniors is to perform simple yet effective resistance band exercises that require minimal equipment. Unlike expensive weight machines and heavy barbells, these provide the perfect amount of load to build muscle for the elderly. If you suffer from back problems, this might be your ideal strength workout solution.
On the other hand, a pair of light dumbells could be another way to go if you’re looking for a bigger challenge. Using weights on a daily basis can increase muscle tone and give you the confidence boost you’re looking for. If you don’t have any weights, you can use makeshift ones from food cans or water jugs filled with water.
Find an exercise buddy
If you’re lacking motivation, finding a friend or family member to exercise with can give you a sense of accountability and purpose. You can take it, in turn, to gently remind each other about your workout schedule and attend classes together to make it less intimidating for yourself.
Even if you don’t have anyone in mind to exercise with, you can always meet a fitness buddy through a group exercise class or a walk. Inviting a friend to play golf on a weekend is a good example. You can check out a nice golf course in Orange County to start with. You’ll have something to look forward to during the week and challenge each other to keep pushing yourselves to the best of your abilities.
Sign up for a senior fitness program
To help you find a ready-made program that encourages you to stick to a regular exercise routine, the NCOA’s Center for Healthy Aging has created a list of senior exercise programs that can take place over weeks or even months. This way, you’ll be able to gradually build up your skills and view your progress over time.
Since fewer than one-third of Americans aged 65 and older don’t get the aerobic and muscle-strengthening activity they need on a weekly basis, having a structured program from places like Active Living Every Day, Bingocize, and Walk with Ease can give you that reap evidence-based health benefits for older adults.
Always warm-up and cool down
If you want to build your own exercise plan, combining aerobic with strength training is essential, in addition to finding ways to improve your balance if you’re at risk for falls. Before and after every workout, it’s also important to do a simple warmup and cool-down. In addition, you should also leave space for recovery between strenuous workouts.
During the warm-up, gently stretch to loosen your muscles or walk at a brisk pace. After the workout, be sure to cool down your muscles by reducing the intensity of exercise for 5-10 minutes and gently stretch to prevent stiffness and injury. No matter what, practicing good form is key, whether you’re taking a walk around the block or doing other forms of exercise.
Although it might be difficult to start your fitness journey at first, rewarding yourself after successfully completing a workout or reaching a new goal can help you stay on track. Track your progress so you know how much you’ve accomplished doing what you love.
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At the end of the day, listening to your body and getting medical clearance from a doctor before pursuing your new exercise regimen should give you a good idea of what activities to pursue and which ones to avoid.