This article details the 10 best fitness ideas for seniors, most of which can be practiced with minimal equipment. The list begins with the time-honored exercise of walking and ends with exercises for wheelchair-bound seniors. These fitness ideas are tailored to accommodate the many degrees of physical limitations possessed by seniors. If you can move your arms, you can perform some form of beneficial exercise. Most of these fitness activities can be pursued year-round which is essential for any fitness program. Before beginning any type of new exercise program, always check with your doctor or medical professional.
Walking: First and foremost is the time-honored exercise of walking. The only extra equipment required would be a comfortable pair of walking shoes. Picking a safe environment is of prime importance. Our neighborhood has no sidewalks but little traffic, so it is fairly safe to walk along the edge of the road facing traffic. It has some hilly streets which provide greater aerobic benefit from walking. For a change of scenery and no traffic, we pick a paved walking trail along the river. Be sure and wear comfortable clothes. If your physical condition allows, also do whatever amount of jogging is appropriate.
If you use a walker and have a considerable amount of mobility, you can still take advantage of the wonderful outdoor exercise of walking. The pleasure of being outdoors has a positive psychological effect for most people. Seniors with walkers my be interested in the article by this author, “The Joy of Exercising with a Rollator or Fitness Walker.”
Swimming: Swimming may be a better form of exercise than walking because it provides upper body exercise also. A lot of communities have a public pool. Some exercise complexes have a year-round pool.
Gardening: Bothflower and vegetable gardening provide exercise for your muscles. For a more aerobic workout, spade up the beds by hand instead of using a rototiller. Cultivating with a hoe will also provide more aerobic exercise. Flowers provide beautiful arrangements for the home and vegetables provide the pleasure of homegrown flavor and lowering your food budget.
Walking up Stairs: Walking upstairs can provide an amazing amount of exercise if a heart condition or arthritis does not prohibit this activity. It is definitely aerobic in nature.
Table Tennis: Indoor sports such as table tennis will provide a very good workout if you have a partner with similar skill. This exercise is both muscular and aerobic and improves coordination.
Physical Therapy — Muscle Stretching Exercises: Muscle stretching exercises can be very helpful for certain people. I have a painful condition which causes my leg muscles to tighten up. My doctor prescribed a course of physical therapy sessions designed to teach me several exercises to stretch the involved muscles. I have found them very useful in alleviating the pain. In some cases the therapy is approved for payment by medicare. After learning the exercise routine, you can do the exercises the rest of your life,
Conducting an Orchestra: (Pretend) Anecdotal evidence tells us that orchestra conductors tend to live very long and productive lives. Quoting from a Health News article about the longevity of certain musicians, whose specialty involves a lot of arm motion, “—in this country at least, one hears of many more conductors, virtuoso violinists, and concert pianists than sportsmen not only living to a very ripe old age, but also remaining on the job right up to the end. Eubi Blake, 100; Karl Boehm, 86; Adrian Boult, 100; Arthur Fiedler, 86; Paul Paray, 93; Arthur Rubinstein, 94; Arturo Toscanini, 90; Walter Demrosch, 85; and Leopold Stokowski, 96, are a few examples.” Although I have no evidence, it sounds as if it may help ward off Alzheimer’s disease also.
The popular theory is that all this upper body exercise, especially if practiced to the degree that produces the aerobic effects of increased heart rate and respiration, is very beneficial. After trying it for a short period, you will be of the opinion that a conductor receives quite a workout during a concert, It will also enhance arm strength and endurance
A New York Times article about the fitness benefits of conducting for exercise, makes the point that walking and running don’t provide much exercise to the upper body. Conducting also has the great advantage of being a fitness program that is accessible to the obese, people with leg problems and even people in wheelchairs. As long as you can move your arms you can participate. If you would feel silly doing this, just do it when alone.
A very enjoyable method of implementing this is to go to You Tube; search for Great Performances, (I found 178,000) select your favorite music and pretend you are conducting the orchestra or ensemble. Needless to say, a march or polka will give you more exercise than a music with a slower tempo. If this. is new to you, you will be surprised at the degree of exercise and fatigue you will have in five minutes. Don’t overdo it. Gradually build up your endurance. I like short periods several times per day. If you love music, you will find this very enjoyable. You can enjoy the music, view the video and exercise simultaneously. What could be nicer?
Treadmill and Exercycle: For dedicated walkers, a treadmill in the basement is very convenient. It eliminates a trip to the mall to walk in inclement weather. An exercise bicycle is very helpful if you have leg problems. I have trouble with weight-bearing leg exercises, but do very well on an Exercycle or outdoors on a regular bicycle.
Weight Lifting: Individual weights are advantageous for maintaining arm muscle mass and strength. Without exercise, seniors’ muscles tend to atrophy, especially if their occupation entailed physical labor and their retirement is more sedentary.
Wheelchair Exercises: The website Sit and Be Fit has a wonderful fitness program for people confined to a chair or wheelchair. According to their website, they are a non-profit organization and have an “Award-Winning Television Series.” Their program is designed to “Lubricate joints ♦ Stabilize spine ♦ Increase circulation ♦ Strengthen postural muscles ♦ Keep ankle joints flexible ♦ Strengthen mobilization muscles ♦ Strengthen tibialis muscles or shin.” Accessing their website will give specific instructions to help you accomplish these goals.
Almost anyone can find a combination of fitness ideas from this list that will suit their taste and ability.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, physical therapist or health care professional. This article is for informational purposes only. It is not the purpose of this article to give medical advice. I am only relating my opinions and experiences and my opinions could be wrong. Any actions you take or do not take as a result of reading this article, you take at your own risk. Always seek advice from a doctor or health care professional before making any health care decisions.
Tara Parker-Pope/”A Little More Sweat Maestro”/New York Times
Health News/”Wellness: Longevity of Orchestra Conductors”/drugfdaprescription.com
Sit and Be Fit/”Mary Ann’s Quick and Easy Energizer Chair Workout”/ Sit and Be Fit