As a new year begins, it’s an ideal time to establish healthier habits for the future. For most, making time for physical activity, even a few times a week, can be greatly beneficial for overall health, but this is especially true for older adults.
Regular exercise has been shown to increase cognitive function, prevent many common diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, improve mood, strengthen bones and even reduce risk of dangerous falls. Despite the benefits, the United Health Foundation’s 2019 Annual Report, showed more than 31 percent of Americans age 65 or older reported participating in no physical activity or exercise other than their regular job in the past 30 days.
No matter age, fitness level or restrictions, there are countless ways for each and every person to increase their physical health. Consider beginning with low impact exercises like walking, yoga or water aerobics or be a little more adventurous and try an aerobics class or strength training workout. Every little bit is helpful to strengthen the mind and body.
To avoid feeling overwhelmed at the thought of starting a new exercise routine, start slowly and work your way towards at least one activity a few times a week. Some ideas include:
Start Slow. If you’re not used to exercising regularly, start with activities that will warm up your muscles and joints. Exercises like seated hip marches and ankle rolls help with balance and flexibility, while torso twists and shoulder presses help seniors build strength and muscle. These exercises are great for building core strength to help avoid falls.
Try a Local Gym. Local gyms may offer group fitness classes, perfect for seniors, classes can often be tailored to unique personal needs. What’s more, classes often occur at the same each week, so you can make a habit of exercising and add it to your weekly schedule.
Seek Out Professional Advice. Working with a personal trainer can be especially valuable for those just getting started. Take this opportunity to discuss what types of activities you’re most interested in trying and what modifications could be helpful. By learning the right exercises for your unique needs, you’ll be able to ensure a safe and beneficial fitness plan. Before you begin any exercise program, it’s worth discussing with your physician.
Stroll at Home. You don’t always need equipment, a gym or a trainer to exercise. Sometimes, all it takes is a brisk walk around the neighborhood to help stay fit. The best part about walking is that you can do it anywhere and at any time! To increase the overall health benefits, invite friends or family along for a causal stroll to catch up. Or, consider incorporating a walking routine with a passion like Beth does as a volunteer dog walker for her local humane society.
Have Fun. Sports like tennis and golf are fantastic ways for seniors to get outside, get active and interact with others. The beauty of these sports is that they are timeless, and you don’t have to be a pro to play. There are many golf and tennis leagues specifically for older adults.
No matter your age, increasing physical activity and focusing on active aging can help you live a longer, healthier and more independent life. This year, find new ways to achieve your health goals. For more information on how to get started, visit https://www.caregiverstress.com/fitness-nutrition/.
Author: Lakelyn Hogan
Lakelyn Hogan is Gerontologist and Caregiver Advocate for Home Instead Senior Care. Lakelyn has been with Home Instead for five years, starting in the local franchise working one-on-one with seniors and caregivers. Now, her role at the Global Headquarters is to educate professionals, families and communities on Home Instead’s services and the issues older adults face. In partnership with the American Society on Aging, Lakelyn facilitates a monthly webinar series for professionals in the aging field. She also hosts monthly family caregiver live chats with Alzheimer’s and dementia experts from across the country.