If you judge from people’s New Year’s resolutions, remaining physically fit is a challenge throughout life. For seniors, there can be additional challenges as illness, isolation, or general “wear and tear” take their toll. Fortunately, there are forms of exercise that fit nearly every senior’s unique abilities. Here are some suggested activities for seniors that you may wish to discuss with your physician for a “green light”.
Warm water exercise is offered at several local pools. While any exercise in water can be excellent for gentle joint movement, specially heated pools make this more therapeutic – and it feels great, too! Ask your in-home caregiver to help you locate a program near you to try out together!
Walking is one of the simplest and most accessible forms of exercise. Whether you walk with a friend, family member, or pet, you can go at your own pace, rest frequently, and enjoy a change of scenery. You might try indoor walking first; one of our Cascade Companion Care home care providers recently helped a client with dementia walk all through her home for about 6 circuits by going on an “ornament hunt”. If you feel more ambitious, you may enjoy checking with the American Volkssport organization, which sponsors walks for seniors with a challenge rating from 1-5. (www.ava.org) Many local senior centers also offer walking groups. Your caregiver can help you find a walking regimen that is right for you!
Tai Chi is a soft martial arts practice. (Although it originated in Taoist and Confucian philosophy, today it is possible to find tai chi groups that focus on exercise without the philosophical references.) Many seniors enjoy the soft hand movements called “forms”. The slow, gentle movements are like dancing in place!
Weight lifting is something many seniors enjoy to build or maintain muscle mass. (After age 50, we lose 1-2% of our muscle mass annually.) Weights come in many forms and colors, and they start as light as ½ pound for gradual strength building.
Like me, my 93 year old dad likes to exercise with his Wii. This game system offers programs that include customized, simple strength and balance exercises, simulated sports such as tennis, golf and bowling, and exercise programs like walking, jogging, yoga and more. I love it when each completed goal is met with a cheering character complimenting your progress!
Yoga is also available in a variety of forms, and seniors can enjoy things such as modified yoga, seated yoga, and alignment yoga. Yoga exercises focus on safety, strength, balance and flexibility. (It is possible to find yoga groups that do not include any Hindu or Buddhist meditative techniques.)
If all of these options are sounding too tame for you, you might want to try line dancing (rhythmic steps in a line of friends) or even Zumba Gold, a wildly popular aerobic and fitness program modified for seniors with a Latin and International music beat.
I recently saw a news feature on a group of war veteran amputees playing a rousing game of soccer. You might have also seen wheelchair basketball games. These inspiring pursuits demonstrate that no matter what our limitations might be, we can improve our mood, memory, and muscles by getting moving!