Every day, millions of older Americans prove that age is nothing but a number. Today, adults over 65 are more technologically savvy, physically active, and engaged with their community than any generation before them.
But still, over the years, time takes a toll. Our bodies slow down, and different health concerns can make it harder to move. When faced with limited mobility, what can older adults do to stay active?
The National Institute on Aging encourages adults 70 and older to focus on four key areas for fitness:
Here are four accessible exercises that can help older adults focus on their fitness and improve their wellbeing, no matter what life throws their way:
1.) Tai Chi
Originating in ancient China, tai chi is a form of exercise that focuses on slow, deliberate movements. It’s all about taking control of your motion and breathing, allowing you to build internal strength, while also feeling more calm and mindful in the moment.
People practice many different types of tai chi, and it’s worth looking around and seeing what style seems like a fit for you. Some tai chi classes, for instance, may be more focused on exercises for stress management, others on the more “martial arts” side of the movement.
No matter which form of tai chi you practice, the health benefits can be enormous. Over the years, numerous studies have highlighted the positive effects that tai chi can have, particularly for seniors. Tai chi has been shown to help seniors:
- Maintain balance and prevent falls
- Improve flexibility
- Lower heart rate and blood pressure
- Give the immune system a boost
- Build muscle and bone strength
- Manage and reduce chronic pain
Tai chi is a great fit for seniors because it is a low impact activity. That is, it encourages movement without taking a toll on your joints, limbs, or cardiovascular system. It’s a gentle form of exercise, one that focuses just as much on the meditative side of things as the physical. Plus, you don’t need any special equipment to get started. Tai chi can be done solo or in a group, and it can be fairly easy to jump in as a beginner, no matter your fitness level.
The American Senior Fitness Association describes yoga as “a tremendous tool for combating the concerns of an aging society,” which can “increase mobility and reduce many health concerns facing the elderly.”
Yoga has many proven benefits for people of all ages, including:
- Reducing stress and anxiety
- Increasing energy levels
- Improving flexibility and range of motion
- Strengthening muscles, bones, and joints
- Improving cardiovascular health
- Promoting better sleep
And yoga provides all of those remarkable, lasting benefits without a lot of the strain of other forms of exercise, making it perfect for seniors.
No matter what your experience level or range of motion, you can get started with yoga in some form or another. For example, chair yoga can be performed while seated, and is a great practice for those who may have trouble with balance or flexibility; Healthline has a great rundown on getting started with chair yoga available here.
Plus, like tai chi, yoga can be done anywhere, and you can get started solo or in a group. If you have health or mobility concerns, you may want to talk with an experienced yoga pro as you get started. That way, you can make sure that you’re practicing movements that will be both safe and optimal for your health and fitness goals.
3.) Water Aerobics
If you don’t mind getting a little wet, water-based exercises can be a great choice for seniors, especially those with aches and pains that make traditional exercise more difficult.
As the Mayo Clinic explains, aquatic exercise is: a low-impact activity that takes the pressure off your bones, joints, and muscles.” Being surrounded by water also “offers natural resistance, which can help strengthen your muscles.”
Think of all that buoyant water like a cushion, helping to alleviate pain and making it easier to move while still giving you all the effects of a great workout. Plus, getting active in the water comes with a wave of unique health benefits. As the CDC and WebMD note, working out in water can:
- Reduce pain and symptoms from arthritis and osteoarthritis
- Decrease depression and improve mood
- Help maintain bone health
- Decrease the risk for chronic illnesses, such as diabetes and heart disease
- Boost metabolism
- Improve strength, flexibility, agility, and reflexes
From “aqua-jogging” to stretching, to light resistance training, there are many different exercises that can be adapted for the pool. Senior Lifestyle has a guide for those wishing to start aquatic exercise here; you may also want to get in touch with your local aquatic centers or pools, which may offer water aerobics and fitness classes for people with different experience levels or health goals.
4.) Weight Lifting and Resistance Training
Strength training is important for people of all ages — and it can be easily adapted, depending on your fitness level. This is especially true for older people, who may have more limited mobility.
For seniors, focusing on strength training may be an effective way to:
- Build and maintain muscle and bone mass
- Improve balance and prevent falls
- Reduce the signs and symptoms of common chronic illnesses, including diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis
- Improve sleep
- Increase energy and reduce feelings of depression
And keep in mind that strength training doesn’t have to mean heading into the gym to hit the bench press. Instead, there are exercises and activities that older adults can perform at home, taking into account their own mobility and fitness levels.
For instance, as Harvard’s HealthGuide puts it, “if you have limited mobility in your legs, your focus will be on upper body strength training. Similarly, if you have a shoulder injury, for example, your focus will be more on strength training your legs and core.”
Ideas might include using resistance bands or light weights — even using weights of as little as one or two pounds could have a major effect. There are also plenty of exercises that seniors can perform that use only their bodyweight for resistance.
Finding What Works for You
Remember, we’re not advocating for any one type of exercise here. Everyone’s health and fitness journey is different, and it’s important to find the strategies that work for you. Don’t forget that talking to a medical professional before you get started with a new exercise or fitness regimen is an important step, one that can help make sure you’re addressing your health needs while taking steps to stay safe.
And now, the Enrollment Specialists would love to hear from you. What are your keys to staying active with age? Are there any resources, tips, or strategies that you think other seniors, or other folks who have limited mobility need to see? Be sure to share your wisdom over on Facebook.
And remember, at every stage of life’s journey, it’s important to reassess your health and life insurance portfolio to make sure that you have a plan that features optimal coverage at the lowest possible cost. That’s where the Enrollment Specialists can help.
Led by health and life insurance superhero Matt Peebles, our office is always here to answer any questions you may have about health insurance coverage, and guide you toward the policy that will work best for you, your family, or your business. Drop us a line today to get the conversation started.