Many seniors are physically inactive as they age. Less activity can contribute to weight gain, stiffness, loss of balance, depression, dementia, and other health problems. The solution is to find activities to keep the body and mind in harmony with one another, but won’t cause injury. Following are 10 activities that seniors can enjoy at their own pace, alone or with others:
Swimming is gentle on joints; the body is only one-tenth its normal weight in water. Gyms, YMCAs and public pools are available for seniors with no pool in their own yard or neighborhood.
Walking anywhere…malls, neighborhoods, parks, and pathways…is overwhelmingly chosen as a senior’s favorite “free” exercise, particularly among those 55 and older. A good pair of walking shoes is the only expense. Having a walking buddy is also fun and therapeutic!
Dancing. Shake a leg, seniors! Try ballroom, tap, jitterbug, rock and roll, or square dancing, Get moving the body. Dancing helps seniors to remember dance steps and sequences which can boost brain power and improve memory skills.
Stretching. Elastic bands are inexpensive and easy for seniors to use with arms and legs. Also, chairs, rails and walls can help steady while stretching. Staying flexible by stretching can help to prevent injury, as well as avoid muscle knots and tightness brought on by daily activities. It can improve a senior’s posture, reduce stress, and generally keep the body feeling agile and “tuned up.”
Exercise balls can provide an easy core workout, and improve balance and cognition in seniors. Most sporting goods and department stores sell exercise balls for less than $20. Rolling the body on exercise balls, and balancing can improve back problems. Workout videos are available from local libraries and on-line.
Bicycling is always a favorite, It’s also gentle on senior joints, and aids with flexibility. the stationary recumbent bike is a great choice at the gym, particularly for the novice exerciser or someone with back, knee, or joint problems that makes running or walking more difficult. Bicycles can be found at yard sales and in the news paper for a nominal price. In good weather, start out with short treks around the block, or going to and from the community mailboxes, then increasing the length of bicycling treks. Always be mindful of traffic and practice safety!
Yoga. Gentle strength conditioning moves keep the back and shoulders limber. Seniors can participate in a low-cost community class to learn the various yoga positions, or can use a Yoga video at home.
Resistence training for seniors can start with one to three-pound weights to build bones and fight osteoporosis. No weights? Use canned foods as weights by lifting a can in each hand 12 times, and gradually increasing reps of 12 as tolerated. Some 1 or 2-pound weights can be purchased for under $10.
Tai Chi. Seniors into their nineties can benefit from this mind and body strengthening discipline. Tai chi is a type of low-impact, weight-bearing, and aerobic — yet relaxing — exercise. I intend to try Tai Chi one day soon.
Aerobics (Jazzercise, low impact Zumba for seniors, or even chair aerobics). What fun! I tried Zumba Gold (for seniors) for the first time this morning at my gym. Zumba, which is an exercise to a Latin beat, originated with a Columbian aerobics instructor, and the fitness craze has caught on across the Nation! Phew, I was surprised how effective Zumba was!
Seniors can experiment to determine which activity best suits them. If any activity becomes too strenuous, slow down or stop. Always exercise at your own pace!