No matter your age, the benefits of exercise are the same — a healthier heart, stronger bones and improved balance and flexibility – but exercising is especially important for older people, as it can keep them remain independent longer.
As a caregiver, you can help your loved ones live a richer and healthier life as they age by encouraging them to exercise.
The first step is to take your loved one to their healthcare provider to see whether they will need to consider any special modifications before starting an exercise program. Next, find a program that your loved one will enjoy doing. Some people prefer a structured routine at a local gym, while others enjoy a walk around the neighborhood or even a long-forgotten sports activity. Remember that it is easier for them to stick with something that’s fun to do.
Walking can be the beginning of a fitness program, or the fitness program itself. This low-intensity exercise will improve physical fitness and can be done anywhere. The most important piece of equipment needed for this activity is proper shoes. There is a difference between running shoes and tennis shoes. Getting the proper style and fit will make the exercise more enjoyable. Take a trip to your local fitness store, where the employees are familiar with the needs of various exercise activities.
These classes are great for seniors to get motivated because everyone in the room has the same goal. It will provide a great source of fun, stress relief and it’s the perfect way for your loved one to make friends. Many of the classes are geared toward older adults and can be adapted at any level, so you can rest assured that your loved one is taking part in a safe activity.
Golf is a low-impact exercise that is excellent at keeping people physically fit and mentally alert. Before heading to the course, help your loved one prepare a few weeks in advance with 20 to 30 minute walks three to four times a week. Have them practice their grip, their back swing and then have them work toward their full swing. When they arrive at the course, do a few simple lower and upper body stretches with them to warm up.
Your loved one doesn’t even need to know how to swim to enjoy this exercise. Exercising in the water is the best option for seniors because it decreases strain on the joints and other supporting structures of the body. Just be sure to keep a close eye on them and always make them aware of depth levels and exits. If your loved one has a tendency to stub their toes, you can offer them an old pair of sneakers or special water shoes while in the water.
Gardening can be a great source of exercise and your loved one can enjoy the beautiful results of their hard work, but make sure they have the right tools before they begin. People with arthritis will need tools with enlarged handles, while people with back problems will need tools with longer handles. Encourage them to stretch, stand up frequently from a kneeling position to loosen stiff joints and give them a pillow to absorb the pressure on their knees.
Another simple activity involves making your loved one’s car work for them. If they do not feel they can put much effort into working out, start with trips to the car. Move the car farther and farther away and have them walk to and from the car. When they go to the store, encourage them to park on the outer edges of the parking lot, rather than looking for a spot closest to the entrance.
Movement matters and fitness is entirely achievable through strength training, flexibility and endurance routines. Buy a set of lightweight dumbbells or use anything weighted- like soup cans- and have your loved one do a few sets of lifting. Resistance bands are a great piece of equipment, as they can be attached to furniture or even the chair. Have them complete a variety of pull-downs, arm rotations and leg extensions to give their muscles a good workout. A physical therapist can be very helpful at getting you and your loved one started with a routine.
Chair yoga is also available at many fitness centers. It focuses on breathing, slow stretching, bending and is designed to improve range of motion. There are also fitness facilities that offer pool therapy programs and arm bicycling or rowing.
The key is starting slowly and making sure they don’t overdo it, as it can make them sore and unmotivated. Make sure they listen to their body and if at any point they experience pain, dizziness, shortness of breath or nausea, make them stop immediately. Help them create short and long-term goals for their exercise routine. This way they can plan their daily activities and work toward achieving their long-term goals that they do not feel physically capable of completing at the moment.
Even brief amounts of physical activity can be beneficial to older adults. Give them the support they need and keep them inspired with daily reminders of the great things they are doing for their health.