Ideas to Enliven Your Senior Fitness Program

For older adults, few things are more important to healthy aging than physical exercise. The challenge is that while many seniors have more time to exercise, they might be facing physical limitations. This can cause frustration, leading seniors to give up entirely and sparking a circle of frailty that’s difficult to get out of. Less activity leads to more health problems. More health problems lead to less activity. And so on.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

One of the best ways to increase engagement and encourage seniors to exercise is by providing them with as many options as possible. It’s important for seniors to not feel limited. Happily, there are many ways for seniors to get physical activity, many of which are non-traditional, low-impact exercises that limit stress on the body and risk of injury.

Here are several ideas for exercises that are fun and effective at every age.

#1. Dancing. Dancing is an extremely effective way to help improve gait and balance, two factors that are important for fall prevention. In addition, dancing can provide cardiovascular benefits, improve coordination and balance, and provide a social outlet that helps seniors feel connected to others in their community.

#2. Tai Chi. Tai Chi can significantly reduce falls by improving balance, physical endurance, and even decreasing the fear of falling. One six-month trial study on the effects of tai chi demonstrated a 55% reduction of falls compared to the those in a stretching control group.

Another review of over 100 different trials singled out tai chi as being particularly effective in reducing the risk of falls for older adults. With regular practice, tai chi strengthens muscles and improves coordination – two things required for good balance. Perhaps equally important is the fact that for many people, tai chi can increase feelings of calm and improve confidence, counteracting the fear of falling.

#3. Yoga. Like Tai Chi, Yoga is also an effective strategy for fall prevention. Yoga strengthens muscles, improves balance and flexibility, and can also support a confident mindset that reduces the fear of falling.

An added benefit of yoga is that many poses can be done while seated, making it a great choice for seniors who are at a particularly high risk for falling. Many yoga poses can be modified to work for those who are less flexible or have decreased upper or lower body strength. And, even adults with limited mobility can experienced an improved quality of life and less depression with a seated yoga program

#4. Golf. Golf is a one of the most popular forms of exercise for competitive seniors who love to get outside. Not only is golf a great way to build endurance, many of the movements support day-to-day functionality, making it easier to accomplish everyday tasks. Like other social forms of exercise, golf is also a great way for seniors to connect to others through a shared interest.

#5. Swimming. There are few activities that provide a more effective low-impact cardio workout than swimming. But, it’s important for seniors to understand that swimming laps isn’t their only option.

Water aerobics and aqua jogging are fantastic ways to get low-impact exercise and even socialize with friends. Water aerobics has been shown to improve body composition and reduce lower back pain, and can even help seniors manage the symptoms of arthritis and other joint problems.

#6. Gardening. Seniors with a green thumb who think their gardening days are behind them because of joint pain, will be pleased to learn that they can still get many of the same benefits from creating a garden of raised pots and containers on a deck or patio.

Raised bed gardening containers are fantastic for older adults suffering from arthritis or injuries to knees, hips, and the lower back. Not only can raising fruits and vegetables get seniors moving, it can provide satisfying, healthy meal options.

#7. Window Shopping. Walking is a great form of exercise for anyone at any age. But, for many older adults, walking outside on uneven surfaces can be problematic. In addition, changes in weather throughout many parts of the country can be detrimental to walking much of the year.

If your city has a local mall, it just might provide the perfect solution. Walking inside an air-conditioned mall provides a climate-controlled environment, plenty of even surfaces, and provides a safe environment with less likelihood of any physical harm.

#8. Play with the grandchildren. As any grandparent can attest, one of the easiest and most fun ways to get exercise is to have the grandkids over for a visit. Take them to the park and jump into the play instead of watching from the sidelines. Not only will the kids have fun and create lasting memories, grandparents who are active set a fantastic example about health and the importance of physical exercise.

#9. Bowling. Like golf, bowling is another excellent endurance activity that supports functional movements essential for independent living, and provides a great social outlet. Unlike golf, bowling isn’t dependent on the weather and can be a year round activity regardless of the climate in which you live.

#10. Exergaming. Exergames are technology-driven physical activities such as video game play that requires participants to be physically active or exercise in order to play the game. Exergames tap into both physical and cognitive functions at the same time. By interacting with a virtual environment, we are able to activate our brains AND our muscles.

The most effective exergames tap into the totality of postural control. This is important because currently most exergames do not train for postural control. Many kinds of commercial exergames today do not provide enough sensory integration and reactive postural control.

Exergames that utilize a changing base of support better meet the requirements for training postural control. This means using an exergame that requires you to lift your feet from the base of support repeatedly. Games that require only body weight shifts in movement, rather than moving your feet, are not as effective.

The Dividat Senso is a scientifically based dual-tasking interactive cognitive motor training system that requires multiple sensory inputs: Auditory, Visual, and Sensory. It includes a user friendly interface and games that simulate every day movements and automatic progression that’s been proven to improve both physical and cognitive function.

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