Seniors need exercise. It strengthens the heart and lungs, lowers blood pressure, decreases stress and reduces the risk for illness. It even improves one’s memory. But older people need exercise that puts less stress on joints and bones. In this post, we feature four low-impact exercises that are perfect for seniors.
Originally developed for self-defense, tai chi has evolved into a graceful form of exercise that is not only great for stress reduction, but an excellent way for seniors to stay fit and healthy. Often described as “meditation in motion,” tai chi relies on gentle, flowing movements accompanied by deep breathing. Like another Asian exercise, yoga, tai chi‘s slow movements are easy on your joints, yet improve strength and flexibility. But tai chi’s biggest benefit for seniors is probably improved balance. Balance begins to decline as we age, and good balance helps prevent falls, a major cause of injury (often leading to death) among seniors.
Everyone knows that aerobic exercise is a must for heart health, but water aerobics provides the same benefits without stressing your joints.
Exercising in water is easier on joints and gives people with arthritis a reprieve from pain. With many types of water exercise, knowing how to swim isn’t necessary. For a look at the wide range of water exercises available, check out this list of 5 water exercises for seniors — ranging from swimming to floating.
Yes, planting your favorite flowers or vegetables is a terrific way for many seniors to get daily exercise. Digging in the dirt, watering plants, weeding and other gardening activities work your muscles. If bending or kneeling to pull weeds or to dig is too much for you, a gardening stool can help make the ground more accessible, and help you avoid injuring your back or knees. You can garden by planting in containers, raised beds or on a trellis, as well.
There’s a reason why walking is the favorite low-impact exercise for seniors: it takes very little planning to get started, and it’s easy enough on the joints. The keys to a beneficial walking routine are the right pair of shoes and some good stretching after your walk. Also, while you’re walking, focus on your posture. Keep your back straight and shoulders rolled back. After your walk, make sure to do a few stretches to protect the muscles you just worked and to prevent injury. Gently stretch your calves and hamstrings, and do a few ankle rolls to help your muscles recover.
For more senior-friendly exercises — from golf to yoga — check out Becky Striepe’s “10 Low-Impact Exercises” and the list, “21 Unexpected Low Impact Workouts” on the health and fitness site, Greatist.com.