Note: This item was originally published in 2016, and updated for today. A couple of years ago Comfort Keepers Springfield, a home health care agency that provides in-home care and personal care services in Springfield, PA and surrounding areas such as King of Prussia, came out with an essential guide full of fun and low-impact exercise ideas and fitness tips for seniors looking to stay in shape. It’s been some time since that article debuted and it’s high time we update its health information with all of the latest facts, fun, and info about low-impact exercise for seniors!
The first bit of business we need to get down to is discussing the basics of why we exercise even into our golden years.
If your loved one requires home care services and you’ve been providing any level of family caregiving you may not be thinking about something like their exercise routine. You’re too focused on their daily living care needs or are inundated with questions about financing long-term care options through Medicare or Medicaid.
This is where a home health agency like Comfort Keepers can help provide you with both the respite care you require and a home health benefit that will improve the personal care of all family members.
Your loved one needs to stay active to maintain a robust health status. That’s where low-impact exercises come into play.
A low-impact routine of exercise has massive health benefits for your body. Even just having an exercise routine where stretching and strengthening are the focus can help you reduce stress, prevent serious injury and lower your blood pressure.
Be mindful, however, of your limitations and consult with your doctor before starting any exercise regimen.
What is Low-Impact?
There are four main categories of low-impact exercises:
A comprehensive routine will include all four different exercises in the general routine. Mixing these different types will keep you focused and interested while reducing your risk of injury. An exercise routine that includes all four types will also promote healthy body weight and give you an edge fighting heart disease.
A lot of popular gyms and senior centers offer low-impact exercise classes. But Comfort Keepers also can help you build a fun program of senior exercises to utilize in the comfort of your own home. Remember, the goal here is to have fun and maintain healthy aging.
Endurance exercises are focused on increasing your heart rate and breathing for extended periods of time. These exercises make it easier for you to walk far, maintain speed, and go up hills and inclines. These exercises will help make everyday activities a breeze for you. Below we list some endurance exercises and we recommend you start each one gradually. Let the exercise build you up at a pace you are comfortable with. Work your way toward 30 minutes per day, if you are able. The longer you go, the more endurance you build. You will also begin to get enough cardiovascular exercise that those who have weight issues will be able to see healthy weight loss.
Strength exercises include the use of weights. Low-impact strengthening exercises typically use hand weights, ankle weights, resistance bands or resistance tubes. Once the weight is added, they usually are just your standard fitness center exercises. If you do not have any of the weights available, safe use of soup cans or bottles filled with water can work as a substitute from what you have on hand.
Stretching and maintaining flexibility is extremely important. You tighten up and get less flexible as you get older. If you want to maintain your good health and your independence, then a flexibility regimen is required. We recommend you stretch for up to 10 minutes each day at home. But you can also do some really fun group activities that promote flexibility, including dancing, yoga, pilates, tai chi or water aerobics classes.
Always stretch after some warm-up exercises. This prevents injury during the bulk of your workout routine and increases your flexibility and range of motion. You get maximum performance from your body when you stretch it out and warm it up!
You can reduce the risk of falling and improve your overall mobility with balance exercises. Just 10 short minutes per day will jump start your easy exercises and help you improve your balance and stay on top of your game. We recommend activities such as dancing, water aerobics, or just bouncing on an exercise ball.
If you are limited physically with mobility or balance issues, there are chair aerobics classes that can help you get the workout you need for both cardio and balance.
How Do I Get the Exercise I Need?
We have some wonderful tips on how to get that low-impact workout you need:
Walking. Plain, simple, walking is one of the top low-impact endurance exercises and will do the job just fine as a staple in your workout plan. It’s easy to get started. Just stand up and go. And it stays easy on the joints compared to other endurance exercises, allowing many people to maintain a brisk walking routine until very late in life. Make sure you have a good pair of shoes for walking, and always remember to stretch after a walk to prevent muscle cramps. As with all endurance exercises, start low and build yourself up. Begin with a time and distance you are comfortable walking, and then work at getting your time to 30 or even 60-minute stretches.
Swimming is the very definition of low-impact! This exercise relieves stress on your bones and joints while conditioning your whole body. Moving through water builds strength and endurance. Swimming also has a low risk of injury and can help many post-menopausal women avoid bone loss. Water aerobics even adds a good cardiovascular element to the rest of the benefits of swimming, giving you a full-body workout with very low impact.
Yoga is one of the ultimate options for low-impact exercise as it hits all the categories you need providing a total body exercise experience. Yoga combines endurance with stretching and strength training, focusing on the goal of giving you greater flexibility and balance. Older adults attempting yoga should start with a beginner workout class geared to their individual needs and build up a routine from there.
Gardening is often overlooked in the high-impact exercises world dominated by today’s youth. But gardening is a fun, fulfilling way to get your daily exercise for both younger and older people. Tilling the soil, watering your plants, weeding them, and bringing flowers to bloom works your muscles. You bend and squat to get at the garden, you pull, dig and scrape. And you spend time outside getting some much needed fresh air. If the physical stress of weeding and bending is a bit much, you can look into getting a gardening stool to help you avoid hurting your knees or back.
Another excellent low-impact workout transplanted from the Far East, but super popular in the states, is Tai Chi. This meditation focused set of exercises and motions flows slowly from set pose to set pose. This action improves your balance, strength, and flexibility. There are many classes at gyms and community centers that provide the basic introduction to Tai Chi. There are also dedicated Tai Chi studios. Besides the basics of a good workout, the benefits of breathing help improve focus and heart health while also reducing stress and high blood pressure. The movements improve balance, prevent falls, and gives the muscles a good wake up call. Tai chi is very gentle on the joints to help you avoid joint pain and gets your body enough activity to help maintain your weight.
The Value of Low-Impact Exercise
Low-impact exercise, whether it’s Tai Chi or dancing, walking or swimming, gets your body the activity it needs. You improve your strength, balance, flexibility, and endurance, all key factors in helping you stay mobile and active late into life. The New England Journal of Medicine did a study and found that low-impact exercises like the ones we describe above can lower the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Comfort Keepers of King of Prussia can help you stay comfortable, mobile and active in your home. Our team of caregivers implements a custom care plan suited to your individual health needs and this “interactive caregiving” philosophy is founded upon the principles of aging at home. Our home health aides provide more than just meal preparation and daily household tasks. We help our clients establish a fun, meaningful daily routine that promotes a healthy lifestyle with long-term independent living. Our Home Health Staff prides ourselves on the idea of giving your loved one the right care that they need.
Your family members deserve the peace of mind and the comfort of aging at home instead of in an adult day care or a nursing home. That’s where home health services become a superior option to nursing care facilities and skilled nursing facilities.
Call our local office today and speak to a Comfort Keepers care plan coordinator to find out more. We can help answer any questions you have about medical insurance, payment options, home health care services and low-impact exercises for seniors.