As seniors age, maintaining or developing a regular exercise routine is important for balance, muscle mass, bone density and mental cognition. Increased blood flow to the brain helps with cognitive thinking and memory skills. More importantly, exercise provides an opportunity to meet new people or enjoy time with old friends while doing an activity together.
The best activities for seniors are ones that provide low-impact on joints and/or relieve tension throughout the body. Here are 5 of the best low-impact activities for seniors and the health benefits associated with them.
The practice of mindful meditation has the health benefit of lowering blood pressure for those with signs of prehypertension. What is mindful meditation? It is the practice of centering your thoughts and breathing to rid yourself of stress.
Researchers at Kent State University in Ohio have found that practicing mindful mediation relaxes the mind and the muscles. This activity can be practice individually or with a group but it is recommended you begin with an instructor to start.
Tai Chi is a series of slow movements combined with deliberate breathing. This ancient Chinese practice was intended as a form of martial arts. Today, Tai Chi is practiced all over the world. Research has shown it can help with rehabilitation; or help maintain or increase one’s current fitness goals.
The beauty of tai chi is that is can be performed standing or sitting. A Harvard Medical School article highlights the health benefits of Tai Chi including improvements in flexibility, muscle strength, balance and aerobic conditioning.
Developing or maintaining a regular routine of walking has significant health benefits. A study published in November 2013 by researchers at the University of Texas at Dallas determined that seniors who participated in aerobic activity for one hour per week, 3 times per week for 12 weeks had improved cognitive abilities including memory and processing speeds. The results of the study suggest that maintaining aerobic fitness can be beneficial to your long term brain health.
Activities like swimming, water aerobics, water running and water cycling offer the added benefit of resistance without pressure on the joints. Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin have found that water-based activities are helpful for anyone experiencing joint problems like arthritis. They also determined that water resistance can help with muscle strength and mobility. The exercises were performed 3 days per week for 45 minutes each time for 12 weeks.
Strength training can take various forms such as exercising with resistance bands, lifting kettle bells and hand weights or performing weight bearing exercises such as squats and one legged lifts. Activities like these help with maintaining muscle mass and strength.
A study performed at the University of Arkansas, published in 2016, found that participation in a weight training program for older adults improved their functional fitness. This means that performing weight bearing activities can help seniors better prepare to tackle daily tasks such as carrying groceries and climbing stairs and make everyday activities easier.
Be sure to take precautions before engaging in any new activity. Speak with your doctor or health practitioner to determine which activity is most appropriate given your health history. Try a few activities to find the one that is right for you. Once you do, see if you can get a friend to join you or make a new one in an organized class. Exercise is great for your body and mind. It’s time to get up and start enjoying the health benefits of regular exercise.