Article published by A Place at Home on August 2, 2017
For seniors, managing to find the time or energy to exercise on a daily basis can be hard enough. But when the wind is blowing and the snow is falling, low temperatures and icy conditions can prevent everyone young and old from getting active during the dreaded winter months.
Remember, physical activity increases blood flow to your whole body. Staying active is important for your whole body, including your brain. Performing a minimal amount of daily physical movement and exercise can even help to prolong some of the memory loss and cognitive decline associated with aging.
Focus on Realistic Goals
The key to finding the appropriate activity and exercise for you or your aging loved ones is to firstly focus on realistic goals.
What do you want to accomplish through the pursuit of a particular workout?
For older adults, exercises should help to target important skills and abilities that will keep them safe in their daily routines.
Improve Fall Prevention
Each year, one third of Americans age 65 or older experience an accidental fall that could end their lives. For seniors, living in fear of falling should not have to be a part of the daily routine. Aging adults can mitigate both fear and risk by dedicating a small window of time towards working on balance each day.
For a comprehensive list of movements geared towards fall prevention, check out Medline Plus’ entry on balance exercises. The workouts are easy enough to perform from the comfort of your own home or at work with little space. Examples of appropriate balance exercises include standing on one foot or using a chair to perform leg raises.
Choose Low Impact Activities
Looking for an excuse to venture away from your usual spot at home or work? Don’t underestimate the value of walking for your strength training.
If the sidewalks are plowed and the temperature is bearable, then take a stroll around the block. If winter conditions are discouraging, visit a large store or indoor mall and get your exercise done while shopping for groceries or new clothes. Stairs within your home or office can also provide the necessary challenge for a quick, effective workout.
As an alternative, many adults with joint pain and arthritis will turn to water aerobics or other similar exercises that can be done in the pool as their outlet for physical activity. Water provides a kind of low-impact resistance training capable of targeting your joints and muscles.
Retain Your Flexibility
Most importantly, begin your exercise routine with a simple stretching warm-up. As we age, our muscles become shorter and lose their elasticity causing a decreased range of motion.
For seniors, stretching is essential for staying limber and flexible enough to perform the basic activities needed to get through the day. Yoga can provide the necessary movements and kind of low impact workout needed to increase flexibility as we age.
Retaining good flexibility and range of motion through stretching can be even more important when wearing layers to combat cold temperatures.
Don’t Give Up
If these exercises feel overwhelming at first, don’t simply quit. It can take your body weeks to adjust to a new routine of physical activity. Be sure to start with reasonable and realistic goals based on your current abilities and limitations.