While many of us across the nation are spending the majority of our days inside our homes, it can be tempting to let go of our fitness routines, especially as most recreation facilities have temporarily closed their doors. However, exercise and movement are extremely important factors in keeping us healthy and active, particularly in older adults. Exercise can help reduce feelings of stress, depression and even improve our sleep quality. You might be thinking; how can I exercise without my equipment or fitness instructor? The truth is there are so many different and fun ways to exercise and build strength in the comfort of your own home.
Benefits of Exercise for Seniors
Most of us are used to hearing that exercise is important for our health from an early age. However, you might not know exactly what exercise can do for us as we age. Exercise can have a profound impact on our physical bodies, helping us to build strength and it can actually impact our brains as well. According to Maplewood Senior Living advisor, Wendy Suzuki, “keeping our bodies moving is so important. Even a single walk outside can stimulate the release of key neurotransmitters that keep your mood up, which is important when your risk of loneliness and depression is increased.”
Here are a few of the most common benefits from continuous exercise.
• Boosts Immune Function– As our body gets stronger from exercise, so does its ability to fight off infection and disease more quickly. Recovery from illness actually takes less energy and less time if a person is in good physical condition.
• Improves Respiratory and Cardiovascular Function– Not only do our muscles get stronger with exercise, but so do our organs. Frequent exercise can actually strengthen our lungs and airways, reducing our risk of heart disease and lower our blood pressure, keeping our lungs and hearts healthy.
• Improves Gastrointestinal Function– People who suffer from slow digestion and constipation are often prescribed exercise as a way to promote elimination of waste and increase natural digestion.
• Reduces Risk of Dementia– As we exercise, our bodies deliver oxygen and remove waste from our muscles and organs. As our brain receives oxygen and blood-flow, it can remove harmful products that interfere with memory, information processing and problem solving, which if not removed over time can ultimately lead to dementia.
• Prevents Falls– Falls are the leading cause of injury and death in older adults. Regular exercise can help build balance and flexibility and allow our bodies to remember how to prevent a fall and how to fall the right way, decreasing our risk of injury.
• Supports Better Sleep– Exercising regularly can help regulate our sleeping patterns and initiate a deeper sleep. Sleeping soundly can help keep our cognitive and physical functions operating well.
• Makes You Happier! As we exercise, our bodies release endorphins into the brain, which can help reduce depression and increase our mood.
How to Exercise at Home for Seniors
Now that you know how important it is to exercise regularly, you might be thinking where do I start? Without the instruction from a coach or trainer, exercising can be daunting, but it doesn’t need to be. Here are a few simple exercises that can be done at home without help from a trainer or coach. As always, if you’re trying an exercise for the first time, you might consider phoning your healthcare provider to make sure it is safe for you and conducive to your individual needs.
Yoga can help reduce stress, pain and fatigue, while also helping to increase balance, joint lubrication and relieve arthritis pain. While yoga can be adapted to meet a person’s needs, chair yoga is great for those who have balance issues and are more comfortable exercising while seated. Healthline magazine has provided a few poses that are great for beginners:
Seated Mountain Pose– This pose is great for individuals looking to improve posture and core strength.
• Start by sitting up straight, take a breath and extend your spine
• While exhaling, press your sit bones into your chair
• Take a deep breath, and as you exhale, roll shoulders back, pull your belly button in towards your spine and relax your arms down at your sides
• Engage your legs by lifting toes and pressing firmly on the ground
• Start by sitting up straight and take a deep breath
• As you inhale, lift your arms out to your sides, and up over head
• Lace your fingers together, pointing your thumbs out towards the ceiling
• On an exhale, roll your shoulders away from your ears
• Continue to breathe in and out for 5 deep breaths and let your arms come down back to your sides
Simple Twist– This is a great pose to help with lower back pain and digestion
• As you inhale, extend your spine and raise arms to your sides and up
• As you exhale, twist to the right, lower your arms, resting your right hand on the top of the chair and leave your left hand by your side
• Look over your right shoulder and stay for 5 breaths
• Repeat on the left side
Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese marital art that practices meditation in motion. These low-impact, slow-paced movements are perfect for seniors who want to improve their balance, strength and increase range of motion. Tai Chi is known to help improve self-confidence, reduce stress, anxiety and depression. Here are a few poses for beginners:
Touch the Sky
• Start by sitting comfortably in a chair
• Place your arms in your lap, palms turned upward, fingers pointing towards one another
• As you inhale, raise hands to your chest, turn palms outward and lift hands above your head
• On an exhale, relax your arms and lower them to your sides
• Return your hands to the starting position
• Repeat ten times
• Stand with your feet a bit wider than shoulder-width distance apart
• Raise arms out in front of you
• Flex your hands and feel the stretch, rotate your wrists to the left and then to the right
You can find more tai chi exercises for beginners here
Not only is dancing fun, but it also has many health benefits. Dance can help improve muscle and bone strength while lowering the risk of injury when compared to other forms of exercise. You can turn on your radio or play one of your favorite songs using a streaming device like Spotify or Amazon Music, and just let yourself dance! If you struggle with balance, you might consider watching a seated dance fitness class, such as this one. Dance Church is a donation based live-streamed movement class that offers a fun approach to dancing and is a great way to feel connected to others.
Strength Training is a great option for active adults who want to exercise and strengthen their muscles without the use of any equipment. These strength exercises use your own body weight to improve muscular strength and mobility. You can find a complete list of strength training exercises specifically for older adults here.
Live an Active Lifestyle at Maplewood Senior Living
Our residents at Maplewood Senior Living facilities are busy staying active and trying new exercises from the comfort of their apartments. If you would like to learn more about our offerings or to schedule a virtual tour, please contact us.