Exercise for Seniors: Easy Moves to Keep Aging Parents Active

Keeping active is key for our aging parents – but it can be challenging physically and mentally. Try these eight easy ways to introduce exercise for seniors.

Exercising is important no matter how old you are. However, as we age, it can become more difficult to find manageable exercises. While exercise for seniors is sometimes challenging, though, it’s worth exploring options.

After all, according to the most recent State of Obesity report, Michigan has the 19th highest adult obesity in the nation, and that includes over 32 percent of those ages 65 and older.

What does this mean for our aging loved ones?

“Weight gain causes lots of issues – muscle weakness, increased chance of joint breaks, increased risk for surgery – but mostly, lack of energy, which makes it even harder to exercise,” says Rajiv Amin, MPT, CKPT and president of All Pro Physical Therapy in Livonia, Canton, Rochester, Livonia and Woodhaven.

It’s easy to understand why it is more difficult to be physically active after 65 – decreased energy, increased fall risks, health factors such as arthritis or other aches and pains are among the reasons. Yet it’s important to try to get in exercise at least three days a week, according to Amin.

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Fortunately, there are some exercises that you can do regardless of age. If you’re looking for some exercise for seniors, here are eight easy things to do with your parents to make sure they’re on top of their health.

1. Walk

“Walking every day promotes bone growth, lessens the chance of surgery and is an easy way to maintain weight,” Amin says. He recommends a 15-minute walk every day.

If your loved one lives in assisted living or an apartment complex, you can walk with them through the halls for 15 minutes. If they are able, though, try to get them outside, as walking in nature has also shown to improve mood, stress levels and memory.

2. Take the stairs

Amin says that climbing stairs is a good way to build leg strength, which should be a target area for seniors. He says that the number of knee replacement surgeries has seen a major increase in recent years, and much of it is due to inactivity and stress on joints due to weight gain.

By climbing the stairs, people are exercising those joints and working the muscles around them to keep them strong.

3. Grab some (light) weights

“Having one- to two-pound dumbbells around to do bicep curls or lift above the head can be a good way to incorporate exercise into other activities such as watching TV,” Amin says.

In addition to legs, arms and shoulders are key areas that Amin suggests working on to prevent joint damage and ease arthritis pain.

4. Strike a pose

Many yoga instructors will tell you that there is no wrong way to do a pose as long as you are comfortable. Grandma doesn’t need to get her full flying lotus on in order to reap the benefits; there are simple poses that people of all ages and abilities can do.

“Posture exercises are huge, because many people slouch or lean over – which creates back issues,” says Amin.

5. Take a ride

Bicycling is a low impact exercise that can be enjoyed by the whole family together. While there is some concern over potential balance issues leading to fall risks, those risks can be reduced by bringing the bike inside with a stationary model which will have the same benefits as cycling outdoors.

Amin says that it is a good option for seniors who go to the gym or recreation centers.

6. Hit the gym

In addition to stationary bikes, Amin says all of the weight machines at the gym can be used by seniors at lower weights. He also suggests using the elliptical, as it is low impact and good for joint strength.

Being at the gym or rec center is not just good for physical health, but promotes social wellness, which lowers the risk of developing memory loss, depression and other mental health concerns.

7. Personalize your exercise

“People should do an evaluation and get more knowledge through their doctors,” Amin says. “A doctor can give recommendations based on the patient’s personal health issues, and then they can go to a personal trainer to further develop a good home program.”

Aging throws a lot of different variables into the mix when it comes to overall health. People with concerns such as diabetes, balance trouble, heart disease, arthritis and more should ask their doctor which exercises would benefit them the most – and then figure out a regime that works for them.

8. Beyond exercising

“A lot of people blow off their yearly physical or ignore pain when it starts because they think that it will improve and find that it only gets worse,” Amin says. Make sure your aging parents are going to the doctor frequently, getting their yearly physical and being honest about pain management.

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