Don’t let something like inclement weather make you inactive! Staying active – even if you’re exercising for only 15 minutes – can significantly improve senior health. For example, a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, found that elderly adults who exercised spent 25% less time disabled or injured than those who did not. Physical activity can boost mood, add extra years to your life, help you maintain or lose weight, reduce the impact of illness and disease like Alzheimer’s, and enhance mobility, flexibility, and balance. Before you begin your exercise routine, talk to your doctor about your physical fitness goals and consider talking to a personal trainer. Wear comfortable, well-fitted shoes to avoid slippage or injury, drink plenty of water, and consider having another person around in case you fall or need help. Once you’re ready, get moving with the following exercise ideas.
Indoor walking – When the weather outside is too frightful or rainy, go for a walk in a museum, indoor shopping mall, school, conservatory, or other large public indoor space that is open to the public. Aim for a brisk 30-minute walk for a total of 2.5 hours per week. Consider getting a pedometer to count each step and track your distance.
Stretching exercises – Before you begin to exercise, it is important to stretch before and after to help reduce muscle pain and decrease risk of injury. However, stretching on its own is beneficial as well. Flexibility exercises can help offset the effects of normal decline in joint flexibility and help you remain active and independent. At least twice a week, seniors should aim to stretch their major muscles groups for at least ten minutes.
Gym membership – Through a combination of equipment, education, training, and socialization, gyms are the ideal location for exercise. Many gyms have discounted rates for seniors and some Medicare plans offer a free fitness program for seniors called SilverSneakers. Talk to a trainer or healthcare professional about creating an exercise routine and consider using cardio equipment like a treadmill, stationary bike, or elliptical trainer. You might also look into classes your gym offers, such as a spinning class, tennis lessons, or dance.
Indoor pool – Swimming is a beneficial low impact workout that presents little risk of injury and offers many health benefits for heart health, joints, flexibility, muscle strength, and stress reduction. If your gym doesn’t have an indoor swimming pool, contact a hotel, high school, university, or recreational center that does have one to find out if you can use it. Some facilities, businesses, and institutions may allow the public access to their pool for a fee.
At-home exercises – Create a home gym with as much or as little equipment necessary for your physical fitness needs. While you can order cardio equipment, you may only need some simple items like a workout mat, light weights, and a resistance band (an elastic band used for strength training). Consider the following ideas for indoor exercises you can do at home.
- Exercise videos – Remember those old Jane Fonda workout classics from 1982? Today, you can search online for similar fitness videos – and there are many for seniors. The National Institute on Aging at NIH has a great collection of free “Go4Life” exercise videos on YouTube.
- Fitness apps – According to a study by AARP, 67% of respondents 50 years of age and older found fitness trackers to be beneficial. There are many fitness apps older adults can benefit from. Search your app store for fitness apps that help you attain health goals like weight loss, track how much you have walked, or teach yoga and simple exercise routines.
- Wii games – The Nintendo Wii Fit Plus system combines fitness and fun into one package for people of all ages. With Wii Fit, you play video games that get you off the couch, standing, and moving your arms and legs in a sort of virtual fitness world.
- Balance exercises – Balance training exercises strengthen the muscles that help keep you upright to improve stability and help prevent falls. Older adults at risk of falls should do balance training three or more days a week and do standardized exercises from a program demonstrated to reduce falls. Consider these balance exercises:
- Stand on one foot for at least ten seconds, or as long as possible, then switch to the other foot.
- Position one foot closely in front of the other and walk heel to toe for 20 steps. Steady yourself with a wall if some support is needed.
- Walk in a straight a line as normally as possible.
- Seated chair exercises – Chair exercises are simple exercises that are done while seated in a chair to help elderly individuals exercise and move without putting pressure or strain on their bodies. They include simple movements of the body, such as bending the feet up and down, lifting a lightweight ball over the head, or lifting the knees.
- Step exercises – Step exercises are an aerobic workout that can strengthen your legs and keep your knees limber. With step aerobics, you step up, around, and down an elevated platform. Make sure your step is at a comfortable height, is sturdy, and provides ample foot space so that you don’t fall off of it while exercising. If you have balance issues, consider placing the stepper next to a wall to help you maintain your balance.
- Strength exercises – Strength exercises, also called resistance training, is when you work your muscles by using resistance. This can mean using your own body weight by doing push-ups, wall push-ups, pull-ups, crunches, or leg squats. It can also mean lifting weights, using resistance bands or weight machines at a gym. There are many benefits to strength training exercises, including the prevention of age-related muscle loss, keeping your bones strong, preventing falls, and promoting mobility and balance.