When caring for an aging parent or loved one, one of the questions that first comes to mind is: can the elderly still be physically active? The answer is simple; why, of course yes!
In fact, we should encourage older adults to keep an active lifestyle since regular exercise has proven to bring them countless of health benefits, which include, but not limited to: preventing common aging diseases such as heart disease and diabetes, improving their mood, mobility and strength, and lastly, it can be an opportunity for some social interaction.1
It does not have to be as rigorous as what the younger people do. Any moderate activity will do as long as it allows them to move.
For those aged 65 and above, the basic activities good for them are endurance, strength, flexibility and balance exercises, according to an article in Very Well Fit. 2 In this article, we will be sharing some activities that seniors will find easy to follow and quite enjoyable.
These activities will improve seniors’ heart rate and breathing.
Walking is the most common form of exercise for the elderly, but if it has been a long time since they last worked out, they should take it easy at first. They can start by walking around the house for 5 minutes, until they are able to extend it to the recommended maximum, which is 30 minutes, for 3 to 4 times a week. 3
It is best to walk outside during the morning while the sun is not yet up high because it is highly important to stay hydrated or else, all the efforts will be for naught. Then again, they can always opt to go to the mall!
Gardening is both healthy and therapeutic for everyone, especially the elderly. While gardening has proven to relieve stress, boosts the immune system, and helps lower the risk of dementia, it is also good exercise! All that bending, lifting, pulling and kneeling under the sun could definitely do a good thing to their stamina. Better advise them to do some stretching first before going out to the garden to avoid muscle strain. 4
The following activities help develop and maintain strength in the muscles. 5
More than just a fun pastime, dancing enhances bone and muscle health. In relation to that, it also helps improve the posture and reduces joint pain. An hour of Zumba or cha-cha about 3 times a week will already do much better on seniors. Moreover, it has a positive effect on their mood because they don’t just get to enjoy it, this is also one way of connecting with friends and fellow seniors. 2 So, why not grab their dancing shoes and lead them to the dance floor now?
Now this one is more for those who have been already physically active since they were young. Just because they got older does not mean they have to stop cycling around their subdivision. In fact, including biking in their routine will maintain the strength in their leg muscles. They will not have problems with walking and would not have to rely on someone else or a support item. Although, it is true that they have to be more careful now. They can keep it at a maximum of 150 minutes to get the best of its benefits. 6
The older we get, the more we become at risk at falling. And to decrease that chance, here is one activity the aging can engage in.2
- Tai Chi
Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese form of art that is also now practiced as a graceful form of exercise. It helps address both physical, mental and emotional health because of its movement approach that combines exercise and meditation in one. More importantly, Tai Chi is widely practiced for improving balance. It hits all the necessary physical components to stay upright, which tends to decline as we age. 2
This is perfect for seniors who are looking for less strenuous activities. Plus, it is more convenient since they can practice this at home.
No matter how old you are, there is no other better time to get your stretch on. According to studies, the body’s flexibility in joints decreases up to 50% the older we get. Does it already hurt a lot when they bend to pick up something from the floor? Yes, that is one of the signs.7 To get back that flexibility and mobility, here are some of what seniors can do every day.
- Light stretching
Yoga is a Hindu-originated exercise that focuses on improving the breathing and mental health. 8 Sounds familiar? Before rolling out that mat, let us settle the main difference between Tai Chi and Yoga. While they both involve meditation and basically have the same benefits, Tai Chi sessions mostly focuses on slow and graceful movements, while Yoga is more about holding poses, postures, and stretching. Hence, yoga is placed under the flexibility category. 9
Still, it is more preferred for seniors to take yoga classes instead of practicing it by themselves at home so they will be under supervision of an expert, especially if they are just starting.
Best to do every morning, some light stretching will be good for the seniors’ joints and muscles. They can start off with a 5-minute warmup such as walking around the house or arm circles, before stretching. Some simple stretches are the neck side stretch, shoulder and upper back stretch, and ankle circles. Again, seniors should include stretching a part of their daily routine to help them move more freely and less painfully. 10
As much as possible, seniors must avoid inactivity – and this applies even to the younger ones, too. Any amount of exercise every day is fine; it already helps us keep our health in check.
The list above is just a suggestion on what kinds of physical activities seniors can engage in. But because of their bodies becoming more fragile, it is still advisable for them to first consult with their doctor or a physical trainer who can take account of your older loved one’s health condition and therapeutic needs.
1 The Green Fields Continuing Care Community. 5 Benefits of Exercise for Seniors and Aging Adults.
2 Very Well Fit. (2019). How Much Exercise Do You Need If You're Over Age 65?
3 Health in Aging Foundation. (2019). Walking Tips For Older Adults.
4 Senior Living Org. (2019). The Benefits of Senior Gardening.
5 Aging Care. (2019). 5 Health Benefits of Dancing.
6 A Paradise for Parents. (2017). 7 Basic Tai Chi Exercises For Seniors.
7 Yuriel Kaim. 9 Important Stretching Exercises for Seniors to Do Every Day.
8 Yogapedia. Yoga.
9 WFAA-TV. (2016). Yoga vs. Tai Chi: Which is better?.
10 Yuriel Kaim. 9 Important Stretching Exercises for Seniors to Do Every Day.