Ways for seniors to exercise during the winter
Routine exercise is essential for anyone maintaining a healthy lifestyle. During the winter, holiday commitments, poor weather conditions and the present risks associated with public gyms can make finding a setting (and the time) for exercise difficult, especially for seniors.
For those seeking movement without venturing outside during colder months, there are several options to stay active. Seniors should consult their physician or health care provider for an evaluation before engaging in new activities.
Indoor cycling is a low-impact source of cardio exercise, promoting weight loss and helping to strengthen the upper respiratory system, in turn, reducing the rider’s susceptibility to colds and other illnesses. Cycling also improves blood flow, enhancing cognitive function while lowering the risk of heart disease and cancer.
With the advent of newer stationary bikes, manufacturers are reducing the price of older models, making indoor cycling more affordable than ever. Virtual spin classes, scenic rides in international locales, movement tracking, workout statistics and more are available with several models.
For older adults, taking 7,000 to 8,000 daily steps may be enough to see significant results from walking. Seniors seeking indoor walking space should check nearby churches, which often have gymnasiums or community areas used less frequently than schools or public gyms. Malls are also a go-to, indoor setting for many walkers.
Ranging in cost from $150 or so to thousands of dollars, treadmills also offer an at-home, indoor walking option. For those at senior care facilities, hallways and corridors are usually wide enough to accommodate walkers, with many built specifically for such purpose.
Though not traditionally considered exercise, some household chores can translate into calories burned, such as vigorous vacuuming, mopping or sweeping. Washing a vehicle or windows promotes rotational movement, strengthening shoulder muscles. In the garden (and warmer climates), weeding or mulching can improve upper body and back strength.
Balance exercises can improve the strength, mobility and flexibility of seniors. For those with walkers, marching in place and heel-toe raises are good stationary exercises. For more independent people, heel-to-toe walking or simple weight shifts can build leg muscle and stabilization.
YOGA & TAI CHI
Practicing yoga enhances mobility, balance, flexibility and strength. In addition to lowering blood pressure and heart rate, yoga reduces anxiety and stress levels, as does tai chi. Chair yoga is a popular option among some seniors who are frail or lack flexibility.
A variety of virtual instructors and free programs can help guide participants through appropriate sessions, depending on a person’s physical capabilities. Tai chi can improve motor function and muscle tone with its deliberate, flowing postures and gentle movements. Like yoga, tai chi also incorporates breathing exercises and meditation.
Weight training can help seniors prevent osteoporosis, increase muscle strength, combat the effects of obesity and increase pulmonary activity, among other benefits.
Simple resistance exercises such as wall push-ups or wall sits can build muscle mass without the need for equipment. Light weight use (dumbbells, kettlebells) and exercise bands can expand exercise routines for a more rigorous workout.
Dance-based exercise enhances balance and coordination, improves gait and mood and aids dancers in preserving the ability for daily functions such as getting up from a seated position or navigating sets of stairs. There are numerous free instructional videos online, offering brief courses and tutorials on possible routines.