Older Adult Fitness Tips for Staying Active Year-Round
The old saying “use it or lose it” gets right to the nub of why seniors should stay physically active and mentally engaged throughout the year. However, when the temperatures drop, there is a tendency to be less active, and in some cold weather areas, the avoidance of the outside elements altogether. This can mean reduced chances of getting exercise. Hibernation may be beneficial for bears, groundhogs and squirrels, but being sedentary is a bad idea for older adults. Prolonged inactivity can contribute to or exacerbate health problems ranging from sore, stiff joints to diminished cognitive acuity to diabetes and heart disease.
Regular Exercise Benefits Everyday Tasks
For older adults, there are many benefits to regular physical activity. It is important for maintaining the ability to easily do everyday tasks such as self-care, getting in and out of bed, standing up from a seated position, lifting and carrying things like grocery or filled trash bags, reaching for things in high storage spaces, and even keeping one’s balance when walking. Exercise helps prevent falls, supports bone health, promotes well-being, and helps relieve and prevent pain.
Activity Helps the Mind, Too
There’s a natural tendency for humans to slow down in the fall and winter months, not only because of the change of climate but also because daylight is shorter, and folks tend to take it easy as another year winds down. But health experts recommend resisting that urge. Physical activity keeps the body in shape and helps boost energy and regulate mood. Activities should include a variety of things, including active hobbies. A variety of things that stimulate the mind, whether reading or board games, is better than just passively zoning out in front of a computer, tablet or TV screen.
Too much lounging leads to feeling lethargic and risks health. The body and mind need to be consistently worked for them to operate efficiently and avoid breakdowns. By keeping fit, seniors increase their ability to heal and return to normal activities should they suffer a setback due to illness, accident, surgery, or other unforeseen event.
Rethinking Activity Attitudes as You Age
The limitations that come with aging don’t have to mean stopping doing things you did before and no longer learning things or adopting new interests. It may mean making certain adaptations to account for your age, which is only natural. Experts agree that the key to maintaining a high quality of life is keeping your physical, mental and emotional dimensions at optimal performance levels relative to your age, health and abilities. That means eating right, staying hydrated, getting plenty of sleep, exercising, and staying involved through recreational and social pastimes that bring joy.
The most important takeaway is that the more you use your body and mind, the less prone you are to lose functions or have them diminished unnecessarily. You greatly improve your chances of maximizing life by keeping your body strong and limber and your mind sharp and nimble.
Exercise Tips for Seniors
You don’t need a gym membership or a personal trainer to get in shape or stay fit. You can get all the exercise you need without ever leaving your home or neighborhood. It is important that before starting any new physical activity, you should consult your physician to ensure that what you plan on doing is safe for you. If you experience persistent pain or discomfort after starting a new activity, check with your doctor to see if you should curtail or adjust what you’re doing or need to be treated.
Consider any or all of these exercise options:
- Walk or jog in place at home. You can devise a walking circuit in your home that gets you moving from room to room at whatever pace feels right.
- If you have stairs, take them, but be careful.
- Do chair, wall, counter or floor exercises that stretch and strengthen muscles and joints and help with balance.
- Dance to music that makes you want to move, whether alone or with a partner, at home, in a social hall or in a ballroom.
- Engage in tai chi or yoga routines.
- YMCAs, YWCAs, community centers and senior centers are great resources for aerobic, endurance, flexibility and balance exercises.
- Indoor malls have plenty of open space to walk in.
- If you swim, there’s no reason to stop in the winter if you have access to an indoor heated pool.
- Walking, hiking or jogging, even in cold winter temps, remain good options for many seniors as long as their physician has cleared them. Be sure to use shoes that grip variable terrain and prevent slipping. Wear insulating outer clothes that keep you warm without overheating. Bring a phone in case you need to call for help. And whenever possible, go with a friend or loved one and let others know your schedule and route.
- Weather allowing, there’s no reason why you can’t bike in the winter; just be mindful of slick conditions.
- Gardening, mowing, raking and snow shoveling are all great ways to get your body moving, but just be careful not to overexert or strain yourself.
- If you need inspiration or tips, go online to find senior exercise videos or access them through your public library or local senior center.
- Before engaging in any sustained physical activity, it’s recommended you do a light warmup. That’s especially important if tackling an activity you only do sporadically. After completing any exercise, it’s best to do a cool-down.
- It’s OK to take breaks from any physical activity. At the first sign of exhaustion or discomfort, stop what you’re doing, drink water, and give it a rest. Don’t force it. Ease back into it.
- Adequate water intake is a vital part of good health. The more active you are, the more water you need to stay hydrated and keep electrolytes in balance.
- If you have a history of health problems, it’s advisable to keep a medical alert system in your home and on your person in case a medical incident happens while exercising or doing chores.
Social, Recreational and Hobbies
- Start or join a book club.
- Join friends for a regular movie or concert get-together.
- Gather with friends or loved ones for a breakfast, lunch or dinner club that dines in or out regularly.
- Take virtual or in-person classes for some passion you wish to explore.
- Volunteer with a nonprofit whose community-based work aligns with your interests or values.
- Consider mentoring a young person through a mentoring program.
- Dive into genealogy research about your family’s roots and branches.
- Start a family scrapbook or write a family history.
- As your schedule, budget and health allow, travel to favorite or bucket list destinations.
- Resume or take up writing, painting, drawing or making music.
The bottom line is that aging isn’t an excuse to retreat from life; rather, it is just another stage for engaging with life. Your mind and body are meant to be used, not wasted. Old age doesn’t mean you still can’t experience the best life has to offer, but you must work the mind and body to reap those benefits.
How Right at Home Can Help
Right at Home care experts work with families to reduce the risk of falls for older loved ones. To learn more, visit Right at Home’s Fall Prevention page to download our free Fall Prevention Guide. Or use our office locator to find your local Right at Home and ask an aging expert for a care consultation today.
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