Exercise is important for physical health, but it’s also one of the best ways seniors can preserve their mental sharpness long into their retirement years. It’s been proven that endorphins released in your brain when you work out can naturally help manage depression and anxiety. Now a new study conducted by Science Daily confirms that exercise can ward off the effects of Dementia as well. While limited mobility and declining strength can make exercising challenging for seniors, there are plenty of activities that get you moving within your ability range.
Exercise Out on the Town
Most things are better when done as a community. Choosing a social activity for your workout can boost your motivation to exercise. Consult your doctor to see what level of physical activity is right for you. Some activities on this list might require special equipment. Before you buy, find out what resources are available in your community for seniors. Most centers will loan you equipment for little or no cost. Grab some gear and get moving!
Swimming is an excellent form of exercise for all ages and mobility levels. Training in water reduces the impact on muscles and joints, perfect for those with arthritis or osteoporosis. Once you hop in, there are plenty of activities to try out. The movements are easy on your body and involve little swimming. Water aerobics classes improve joint mobility, heart health, and overall strength in a fun, group setting.
Cycling is a fun low-impact activity for building cardio and lower body strength. It can also provide benefits for seniors, such as improving cholesterol levels and reducing muscle loss due to aging. If weather conditions are right, heading out on local trails can be a great way to see more of nature or spend time with friends. Those who prefer to stay at home can choose a stationary bike to workout while watching their favorite shows. Stationary biking avoids the risk of falling, and you can even skip the helmet!
Strength & Aerobics Classes
Joining a class at your local community center is perfect for seniors looking to socialize while they workout. Most centers offer beginner classes that might use light weights or resistance bands to gently build strength, cardio, and balance. Don’t just check the community center; local parks are popular spots for group aerobics and strength training when the weather cooperates. Find a group that meets near you and make some new friends!
Pilates is a form of exercise popular among dancers for helping build muscle without bulk. It’s touted for its effects on alignment, flexibility, and core strength. These qualities make it a great choice for seniors looking to stay balanced and on their feet as they age. People who practice Pilates frequently also report improved posture and joint stability after just a few months. You might also experience a reduction in pain from chronic ailments. Some of the positions can be challenging at first, so it’s good to have a chat with your doctor to see what level of activity is safe for you.
Yoga is a popular form of exercise among all ages. It’s very similar to pilates in that the body is conditioned through stretching, poses, and breath control. Poses are generally held for longer, and reps aren’t counted like they are in pilates. Whether it’s yoga, pilates, or other stress-relieving styles like tai chi, choosing the right class all depends on an experienced teacher who recognizes your ability level and adjusts accordingly.
Exercises You Can Do at Home
For some seniors, getting access to a pool or pilates studio can be difficult. You may not have a means of transportation or be in a memory care assisted living home. Thankfully, there are other options for staying in shape that seniors can use without leaving the neighborhood, or even their living room.
Sometimes, the best way to preserve your health as a senior is to focus on the daily tasks that you perform each day and try to gain strength and stability through practice. Incorporate these exercises a few times into your routine each week, and eventually, you’ll feel more confident navigating your home and performing simple tasks.
Sit-to-stand – Stand in front of a sturdy chair and slowly lower yourself down to it while holding your arms stretched out in front of you. Then, stand back up, pushing through the heels of your feet. That’s one rep, repeat for a few sets of 10 reps each and try to keep your arms steady as you do. The more you focus your legs and back, the better.
Farmer’s Walk – Grab two dumbbells in each hand. If you don’t have a set, any two objects that weigh about the same will do. With your arms hanging by your side, walk with the weights in hand for about 30 seconds. Take a moment to rest and then walk back. It’s best to start light and gradually increase the weight as you feel more comfortable.
Leg stands – Find a wall or counter to support yourself with. Place one hand on the sturdy surface and lift one leg into the air, holding for about 30 seconds or as long as you can. Be sure to switch legs after a short rest, and try to keep your back as straight as possible.
Tightrope Walk – This is great for building balance. Starting with your arms stretched out by your sides in a “T” position, take a small step forward with your right foot, placing your heel just in front of your left foot’s toes. Then step with your left in the same way. You should feel like a performer on a tightrope, trying to maintain balance on a very slim platform as you walk forward. Try this for 30 seconds, turn and repeat.
Never underestimate the impact of a regular walk around the block. For many seniors, a brisk walk each day is enough to keep them flexible, vibrant, and mentally-stimulated. Consider pairing up with a friend and setting up a regular schedule. Get yourself a good pair of shoes and try to find a comfortable route around your neighborhood without too much elevation change.
Get an Accountability Buddy
Exercise can keep your mind alert and keep you feeling strong. Try to get accountability buddies to keep you on track and to help your friends stay on track as well. We all may be getting older, but that doesn’t mean we can’t work to stay as alert and active as possible!