Many people feel that as they age they have earned the right to sit back and watch as others are active. You’ve seen those seniors who are sitting on the front porch rocking in the wicker chairs. We all have. They are more or less a stereotype.
Senior years are not the time to sit back and stop moving!
Scientists continue to study aging and find benefits to staying physically active for us all, but especially for seniors. Physical activity is not only good for seniors’ bodies but also their minds. Who doesn’t want a fitter body and sharper mind? But more importantly, staying physically active will allow your senior to maintain function, keep strong and balanced, prevent falls, relieve depression and help prevent chronic diseases (like arthritis, heart disease or diabetes) or disability associated with aging. It can help seniors be themselves longer.
Choosing Activities for Seniors
One of the most wonderful things to be said about getting physically active is there is something for everyone. Your senior can choose favorite things and that will make it fun and increase the desire to keep doing it every day. Whether being active in brief moments several times throughout the day or participating for longer times once a day, your senior will feel the benefit.
- Brisk walking, walking the dog (practice safe walking habits)
- Raking leaves, doing yard work, gardening
- Active video games
- Playing tennis
- Yoga, Pilates or stretching
- Tai chi
- Swimming or water aerobics
- Golfing or fishing or bowling
- Household chores like vacuuming, laundry, bed making
- Playing with grandchildren, carrying grandchildren
- Walk the stairs
- Exercise videos, especially for sitting positions
- Balance exercises
- Walk all the aisles in the grocery store, mall walking
Your senior loved one may want to set short and long term goals to help make a plan of participating in physical activities every day. You can help them set goals and, at least as importantly, stick with them. A short term goal might be something such as “I will walk to the corner after lunch every day.” A long term goal could be “I will walk 1 mile to the high school and back every day before lunch gradually reducing my time (or increasing my distance).”
The key to sticking with an activity is for your senior loved one to make it a part of the day (and you can join in too – most of us can benefit from more activity) and be sure to pick a favorite activity. Writing down the goals – including where, when and how long – will help keep your senior motivated to succeed. Your senior’s goal should be 30 minutes a day of moderate intensity activity, subject to medical clearance of course. Be sure to walk or play in a safe place and wear comfortable clothing and shoes that will allow movement.
Ask your doctor before your senior starts with any new physical activity explaining the where, when and how long so that the doctor can evaluate the safety of the activity and advise your senior appropriately. If after beginning a new activity, physical symptoms appear, have your senior seek the advice of the doctor. Don’t forget to keep hydrated by drinking plenty of water!
Today is the day to find a new activity or exercise, join with loved ones and make it a habit to keep moving!