As our bodies age, it is more important than ever to exercise. However, we often can’t do the same activities we did when we were younger; for many, the gym is a distant memory. That doesn’t mean all exercise is out of the question, though. Staying in shape is one of the keys to a long, healthy life. Not only does it boost your physical health, but aerobic (cardio) exercises have been shown to reduce depression and anxiety.
The good news is that you don’t have to buy hundreds of dollars’ worth of equipment to keep your body in shape with fun, low-impact exercises. The key? Starting small, and not doing so much that you may injure yourself. Stick to exercises you are comfortable with. Here are a just a few low-impact exercises to consider:
Go For a Walk
Often, the best exercises are the simplest. Walking strengthens your leg and core muscles, and is also easy on the joints. However, you will need a pair of good walking shoes that have ample cushioning and heel support to ensure this exercise is truly low-impact. You may also want to find a good walking stick!
In order to get the full benefits of walking, be sure you keep good posture, with your shoulders rolled back and your back straight. Also, don’t overexert yourself; build up to walking for 30 minutes to an hour. After the walk, stretch out your leg muscles to help them recover.
Take a Dip
Swimming is truly the lowest impact exercise out there. Those who swim are much less likely to experience a fall than those who do not. This is because swimmers must keep themselves afloat in the pool, which helps greatly strengthen core muscles while increasing coordination skills. As such, swimmers tend to have fewer balancing problems than those who exercise in other ways.
For older adults with arthritis and other joint issues, swimming can help reduce swelling and pain, since nearly all pressure is taken off the bones. Even taking a few laps around the pool with the support of a flotation device has been shown to be beneficial. Just be sure to use a pool that is easy to get in and out of, whether with steps or a sturdy, non-slip ladder.
Hop on a Bike
While bicycling may seem like a challenging and dangerous exercise, it’s actually one that offers a variety of benefits. When you pedal, your joints absorb minimal pressure. Moreover, if you choose to bicycle outside, you can often go farther than you would when you walk, and can see many of the great areas around you.
For outdoors, some older adults choose a standard upright bike. However, these bikes can be hard on the back, especially if you bend over the handlebars. A recumbent bicycle may be a better alternative. These allow you sit back with the pedals and handlebars in front of you. Indoor bicycle machines are also a good choice. You can choose your difficulty level and avoid any danger of losing your balance and falling off on the road.
Grab Your Mat
Different stretching exercises can be a workout on their own, or a good warmup for any of the other activities on this list. Simple stretches, such as toe touches and shoulder rolls, are a great way to start the morning. They can help eliminate any stiffness you feel from sleeping and keep you flexible. However, you should never stretch to the point of pain, nor should you bounce while stretching.
For more “advanced” stretching techniques, consider yoga or tai chi. These activities focus on balancing and meditating, good for both the body and mind. However, for older adults who have never done these exercises before, it may be beneficial to join a local class. That way, you have an instructor who will help you find positions that are comfortable and will also help you avoid injury.
Head to the Garden
Maintaining a garden is a great way to stay in shape while having fun. Digging, watering and planting are all semi-challenging, but may not seem so in the moment. Moreover, keeping up with the garden is also a good way to keep a strong mind, since it employs skills you may have picked up throughout your life and requires you to keep a regular schedule. Plus, you can often literally reap the fruits of your labor at the end of the season!
The biggest challenge with gardening is being on the ground while working, which can be painful on the knees and back. However, there are gardening stools available that keep you lower to the ground without putting pressure on your joints. In addition, you will want to invest in ergonomic tools that won’t cause pain in your hands.
Just because you are getting older does not mean you have to give up on staying in shape. With these great exercises, you can keep your body strong and your mind sharp. At The Holbrook, we offer opportunities to explore all of these exercise options in a safe, fun environment. Contact us today to learn more about our active adult retirement community in Decatur!