Try Balance Exercises for a Better Foundation
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Balance exercises may not be the first thing that come to mind when you think of exercise, but they’re vital for all of us as we age. They’re not necessarily strenuous, and you might not break a sweat, but balance exercises help strengthen the muscles you need to live independently and can reduce fall-related injuries. They can also help your body develop the support it needs to perform other potentially more difficult exercises.
A recent study published by a journal called Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience found that balance and coordination exercises can have not only physical but also mental health benefits, including memory and spatial-cognition gains. But how do you get started? The Mayo Clinic notes that walking is an ideal balance exercise, as is anything that has you on your feet and moving. But being intentional about developing better balance helps, too. Take a look at this list to get started with easy, balance-boosting moves like weight shifts, leg raises and "flamingo stands."
If you're looking for something more challenging, you might even find a local yoga or tai chi class. Both styles of exercise are gentle and can help you develop and maintain balance, flexibility and strength.
Get Walking for Immediate Benefits
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The importance of walking for seniors cannot be overstated. Not only can it increase energy and stamina and provide a good cardio workout, but it can also help decrease the risk of developing diseases like diabetes.
Whether you choose to go for a walk around the block or take a few laps around the mall, making walking a regular part of your routine can go a long way in increasing your mobility. Rest assured that there's no need to set out to complete a marathon your first day. If five minutes is what feels most comfortable to you, that's a great start. If you use a cane or walker to get around, be sure to bring it along.
The important thing is to do what you can in the beginning and try to work your way up, even by a minute or so each day. If you find yourself looking to shake things up, consider adding the "farmer's walk" to your routine. By carrying small weights in each hand while you walk, you can strengthen your abs, back and arms.
Learn Bodyweight Workouts You Can Do Anywhere
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No gym? No problem! According to the Mayo Clinic, bodyweight resistance training can be just as effective a form of fitness for seniors as machine-based exercises can. With these workouts, you use the weight of your own body — instead of weighted machines like you see at the gym — to provide resistance for your movements. Challenging your muscle groups with bodyweight exercises can help you build strength, flexibility and balance. Common bodyweight exercises include squats, lunges, sit-ups and push-ups.
The best part about these exercises is that they're very easy to modify to fit your unique mobility needs. If you find squats difficult, try sitting down in a chair and getting up a number of times instead. Wall push-ups are a great way to get the same benefits as regular push-ups without having to get down onto or up off of the floor. Silver Sneakers has a great list of bodyweight exercises for seniors to help get you started.
Use Chair Exercises for More Support
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If you often use a wheelchair to get around or don’t find it comfortable to stand for longer periods of time, there’s a large number of exercises you can do while you’re seated. To make the most of these workout routines, order yourself a pair of small dumbbells. Even small dumbells that weigh just a few pounds can go a long way towards helping you build strength. Then check out this great collection of chair exercises that also provides instructions and visual aids.
As an aside, keep in mind that it’s important to talk to your doctor or physical therapist before beginning your workout routine, especially if you’re using a wheelchair due to a recent injury or surgery. They’ll be able to help you focus on the specific at-home exercises that are right for your health situation.
Go With the Flow Doing Water Aerobics or Swimming
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If you live with arthritis or joint pain, water-based exercises may be the perfect answer for helping you get active. Exercises like water aerobics can not only help get you in shape but also help relieve joint pain. That’s because the water’s buoyancy supports your body and puts less pressure and stress on your joints while you move. At the same time, water creates resistance to activate your muscle groups and engage them more.
Senior Lifestyle has a great list of water fitness exercises for seniors that you can try out the next time you visit the pool. You might even ask your local health club or gym if they offer water aerobics classes. These can be a great way to stay fit and meet new people — keep in mind that staying social is essential for your mental and physical health as you age, too.
If you're not into aerobics just yet, traditional laps provide a great workout as well. Experiment with different kinds of movements, such as backstroke and sidestroke, to find out which ones you’re comfortable with.