Staying Active and Healthy At Any Age: Safe Exercises for Seniors

In today’s world, only 28 to 34 percent of adults between the ages of 65 and 74 are physically active. Though it’s true our bodies tend to become more limited as we age, staying active plays an important role in our mental, physical and emotional health during all stages of life. For seniors, leading a sedentary lifestyle may actually worsen health problems and potentially compromise independence. The good news is, there are plenty of safe and effective exercises to help you stay active and healthy at any age.

Chair Workouts

Utilizing household objects to workout is convenient and effective. Many exercises can even be performed at home, in the comfort of a chair. With all chair exercises, it’s important to sit up nice and tall with abdominal muscles and core engaged, and try to press your shoulders down and away from your ears.

Try cycling through the following movements:

  •  Toe Taps: With heels on the ground, bend the toes up toward the ceiling and back to the ground. Increase your range of motion by sitting toward the edge of the chair with legs straight and heels touching the ground. In this position, point toes down towards the ground, then up towards the ceiling.
  • Seated Row: Sitting on the edge of the chair, hold arms out in front of your chest, thumbs facing up and elbows bent. Draw elbows back as far as possible while squeezing the shoulder blades together. Release and repeat.
  • Shoulder Rolls: Sitting down, shrug shoulders toward ears and slowly rotate in a circular motion. Repeat the motion and switch directions every so often. This engages not only your shoulder joints, but your trapezius muscles, which are used when lifting things.
  • Hand Squeeze: Hold a ball in the front of your body and squeeze your hands together as if you are trying to deflate it. Arms should be straight, but do not lock your elbows. Pull arms back and bend elbows to a 90-degree angle, continue to squeeze hands together as if deflating the ball. Lastly, bring hands and ball into the front of the chest and continue same squeezing motion.
  • Glute Squeeze: While sitting with feet on the ground, squeeze the glute muscles together and hold for 10-20 seconds. Release hold and repeat.
  • Knee Lifts: While in a seated position, slowly lift one knee toward the chest and then return your heel to the ground. Hold onto the chair seat to aid in balance while performing this exercise. Alternate sides and repeat as desired.

Lightweight Training

When performed in moderation, lightweight training can be a great way to strengthen and tone muscles and support bone health and density. According to Men’s Fitness, using light weights can be as effective as heavy weight training when done consistently.

Yoga

Active rest days are a must when it comes to exercising. Yoga is a relaxing workout that has as many benefits to your mental health as it does physically. While yoga assists in maintaining a balanced metabolism and improves respiration, energy and vitality, it also serves as a form of meditation and channels body awareness.

Drumming

A newer form of exercise rising in popularity is cardio-drumming. These workouts are designed to engage the arm muscles as you drum with a group to the beat of a given song. The aerobic movements are not only fun and original, but also low-impact and increase heart rate for an effective workout.

Water Aerobics

Swimming and other water sports are top ranked forms of physical activity for people of any age group. Water aerobics consist of a series of workouts in a pool or body of water that are easy on joints and muscles, and improve endurance. Usually held in a group setting, water aerobics can be as much a social affair as it is a workout.

Walking

The benefits of walking are often underestimated. According to the Arthritis Foundation, walking improves circulation, increases bone mass, lightens mood, improves sleep, lowers the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and has even been shown to lead to an increased lifespan.

Dancing

One of the best ways to make a workout fun is to get engaged. Dancing allows you to move to your favorite music, while bringing your spirit and confidence into a workout. According to the Better Health Channel, dancing improves lung, heart and muscle health while simultaneously refining coordination, agility and balance. Dance is also known to improve memory and fight depression.

 When it comes to safe exercise, always listen to your body and know your limits. It’s also important to wear proper footwear and workout apparel. If you suffer from high blood pressure, osteoporosis, joint swelling or other health issues, consult a doctor before engaging in any workout regimen.

About the Author: Dr. Raymond Hobbs is a physician consultant at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. 

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Photo Credit: NCVO

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