Fitness Tips for Seniors
Physical activity and fitness is important for seniors of any age. Keeping your body limber, flexible,
and strong will help improve your balance and prevent accidents and falls.
Any senior considering new exercises or exercising for the first time in years should discuss options with their doctor, but there's very few occasions where stretching exercises or exercises while seated won't be permitted or encouraged by physicians.
On average, American seniors spend between 1 to 2 or more hours a day watching television. There's no reason why Mom can't do some simple stretching exercises while watching her favorite television show. For example, during commercials, encourage Mom to rise out of her chair, stand, and then sit down again. She can do this two or three times during a commercial break and exercise her abs, thighs, and her hips. This exercise will also help encourage and enhance circulation in the lower torso.
If you like sitting in your recliner with your feet up, consider fitness tips such as range of motion exercises for your feet. For example, with your legs stretched out in front of you, rotate your ankles in a clockwise and then a counterclockwise circular motion. This will help exercise the muscles, tendons and ligaments of the ankle joint as well as the lower calf muscles.
Sitting in a chair, you can perform knee, arm and shoulder exercises. Add very light (1 to 2 pound) dumbbells if you'd like. For example, when sitting in a chair, sit up with your back straight, stomach pulled inward. Slowly lift your right foot from the floor, lifting the knee toward the ceiling. Hold for several seconds and then lower. Repeat this exercise on the other side.
As you can see, there is quite a bit of activity that can go on while you're watching television. Lead by example when necessary. Make exercising while watching television fun and silly if you have to.
A great number of benefits can be had from encouraging Mom or Dad to stretch in bed before rising in the morning, or before they crawl into bed at night. Stretching exercises help relieve tension and stress and get the blood flowing to all areas of the body. Morning stretching may also help alleviate stiffness and pain caused by conditions like arthritis and osteoporosis. Stretching before bed can help transition the body from wakefulness to relaxation and comfort.
Maintaining flexibility is important for seniors. Flexibility and circulation will help promote better posture, balance and stability. According to the Mayo Clinic, stretching not only improves circulation, but increases and improves range of motion in joints. Improved circulation means faster recovery of injury, as it increases blood flow carrying oxygen and vital nutrients to the muscles.
Nearly every senior can do some form of stretching. Start stretching slowly, gradually increasing range of motion or movement as well as the duration that you hold a stretch. When stretching, start gently for 5 to 10 minutes. Resist the urge to bounce.
Stretching can help relieve tension and pain in muscles and joints, but don't stretch farther than comfortable for your body weight, shape, and current flexibility. Throughout the stretch, breathe and relax.
If you've been diagnosed with any type of medical condition or injury, talk to your doctor before you stretch. Stretching with already strained muscles, damaged joints, or severe osteoporosis or arthritic conditions may cause pain and injury. While stretching may seem innocent and harmless, any type of activity or stretching movement on a weak body area may potentially cause damage and pain.
Encourage seniors to engage in movement and motion whenever possible. Whether they're watching television in the evening or sitting on the porch in the morning, encourage your loved ones to move their joints, stretch, and engage in gentle forms of exercise. Doing so will increase their overall physical health and well-being as well as encourage stronger bones and joints, improve their balance and stability in order to reduce risks of falls or loss of muscle tone and strength.
NOTE: As with any exercise program fitness tips should be discussed with a medical professional before attempting.