Follow Us:

Physical Activities to Keep Seniors Healthy

Rita Dichele - December 19, 2016 12:21 PM

As caregivers we tend to want more for our loved ones than reading the newspaper, watching TV and sitting quietly trying to take prolonged naps.  Although it might seem like a rather daunting task to convince our loved ones to get more active, communities are gearing up to take on the challenge of providing physical activities for their seniors.  This would make sense; especially when the CDC (Center for Disease Control) recommends physical activity for those over the age of 65 to be about 2–2.5 hours a week. 

Physical Activities

The CDC suggests moderate exercise such as a water aerobics class, a brisk walk, muscle-strengthening, weightlifting, tai chi, or yoga.  However, today’s seniors may have lived their lives with little, if any, physical activity.  Although, this does not mean it is too late for seniors to exercise or even engage in competitive sports such as ping pong, tennis, badminton, and golf. 

Where to Go

There are many places to go to for a good workout that is targeted towards seniors.  As I mentioned in a previous article, senior centers have an array of recreational activities that include chair exercises, balance techniques, tai chi, yoga, Pilates, and much more.  In addition, the YMCA/YWCA typically offers exercise classes for seniors.  Some towns have departments of recreation that offer physical activities such as traditional exercise classes specifically designed for seniors.  There are fitness centers that have personal trainers who work exclusively with seniors.  Another good place to check is with a church or religious center that might list exercise classes in local papers.

Silver Sneakers Exercise Program

Silver Sneakers is a program for seniors and baby boomers to engage in regular exercise programs.  The purpose of the program is to provide those eligible seniors exposure to exercise and physical activity.  The program consists of many activities such as regular strength building and aerobics (land and pool), cardio workouts, yoga, etc.  Classes are taught by specially trained Silver Sneakers instructors who know how to gear the workout to seniors with special needs and limitations.  In some cases, health insurers will pay.  For instance, if seniors have a Medicare Advantage type of health insurance, they can receive classes for free.  If not, even MediGap supplementary insurance plans might pay.  In fact, at least 20% of seniors over the age of 65 are eligible to take part for free.  Anyone, though, can join for a fee.   However, it is important to look on your insurance company’s website; email, or call to find out whether your loved ones qualify for this valuable health benefit. 

There are approximately 11,000 gyms that participate in a Silver Sneakers program.  It is a great idea to prevent injuries and improve chronic health conditions.  Furthermore, it is a program that can prevent falls, as seniors can learn about how to maintain balance while walking.

Caregivers Helping

As a caregiver, there is much you can do to encourage your loved ones to get active.  You might even take on the additional role of activities coach.  You can help set goals, starting with small “baby” steps.  For instance, have your loved ones track their progress using a spread sheet or even writing it down on a piece of paper.  A good example of this would be to start a chart for walking.  Begin by walking slowly around the neighborhood, building up to the local park for longer walks keeping track of how far you went and how long your walk was.  In addition, encourage your loved ones to take walks in the malls or help them find walking trails.  Furthermore, caregivers can get together and have challenge matches, beefing up the competition’s feature of physical activities.  All of this can be recorded so that progress can be seen!

Physical Activities with Children

Also, caregivers with children or grandchildren can have their older relatives exercise with them.  The National Institute on Aging suggests that pushing a small baby’s carriage, playing hide and seek, riding a bike with a child, playing a video fitness game with an adolescent, and having a child help you with cleaning can contribute a great deal to being active.  No matter how small the activity may seem, or how slow, or even how simple, movement is what will improve quality of life for today’s seniors.

Final Thoughts

The older population is growing.  In fact, it is expected to continue to grow with life expectancy increasing.  Life expectancy someday could reach on average 119 years of age.  It is anticipated that with approximately 834,000 adults will be over the age of 100 by the year 2050.  It is amazing to think that the progress being made in health care technology will prolong life so long.  As a result of this, there will be a greater need to occupy the time for our seniors.

This is article is another segment on a series of articles on leisure activities for seniors.  My next article will be on seniors using social media for recreational fun.

Your Answers and Comments

Post your answer or comment
You must be logged in to post a comment.

Previous Articles

More Previous Articles