If you dread working out, it’s time for a mental makeover. Consider physical activity part of your lifestyle instead of a bothersome task to check off your “to do” list. There are plenty of ways for seniors to make exercise a pleasurable part of everyday life—here are just a few.
Choose activities and exercises you enjoy
Think about activities that you enjoy and how you can incorporate them into an exercise routine.
• Listen to music while lifting weights
• Window shop while walking laps at the mall
• Get competitive while playing tennis
• Take photographs on a nature hike
• Meet new people at a yoga class
• Watch a favorite movie while on the treadmill
• Chat with a friend while walking, stretching, or strength training
Find easy ways to add more physical activity to your day
Being active doesn’t have to be limited to your workout times. There are plenty of ways to become more active as you go about your day.
• Active on the go: Always choose stairs over the elevator, park at the far end of the parking lot when arriving at appointments and meetings, walk down every isle of the grocery store while shopping, practice balancing skills while standing in line, do neck rolls while waiting at a stoplight.
• Active at home: Do a set of wall pushups while waiting for water to boil, vigorously vacuum, tend to the garden, sweep the sidewalk, rake leaves, lift weights while watching the news, try toe-raises while talking on the phone, do knee bends after sitting for a long period of time.
Focus on the benefits in your daily life
The most rewarding part of beginning a fitness routine is noticing the difference it makes in the rest of your life. Even if you begin exercising with a few simple stretches while seated or a short walk around the block, you’ll notice an improvement in how you feel as you go about your day.
• House cleaning, gardening, shopping, and errands. Want to feel less winded while vacuuming or rushing to and from appointments? Doing just 15 to 20 minutes of heart-healthy cardio each day, such as walking, biking, swimming, or water aerobics will help give you the stamina you need.
• Lifting grandchildren, carrying groceries, household chores. Building muscle mass a few times each week through weight lifting, resistance exercises, and nautilus machines will help give you more strength.
• Tying shoes, looking behind you while driving, navigating steps. Incorporating basic stretching—even while seated—into your fitness routine will make the most ordinary movements easier. Try yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi, or Qi Gong to limber up.
Exercise doesn’t have to break the bank
A senior fitness program does not depend on costly gym memberships and fancy exercise equipment. Like the best things in life, staying fit can be completely free. Work out the wallet-friendly way:
• Do neck rolls and light stretching while watching TV
• No weights? Use food cans or water bottles
• Rent exercise videos from the library
• Mow the lawn, rake leaves, and weed
• Climb stairs
• Enjoy a walk in a new park or neighborhood
Tips for frail or chair-bound seniors
If you are chair-bound, movement matters even more, and fitness is entirely achievable. Chair-bound seniors can reap the benefits of exercise with strength training, flexibility, and even some endurance movements. If being chair-bound has prevented you from trying exercise in the past, take heart knowing that when you become more physically active, the results will amaze you. Like any exercise program, a chair-bound fitness routine takes a little creativity and personalization.
• Strength: Use free weights (otherwise known as “dumbbells”) to do repetitive sets of lifting. Don’t have weights? Use anything that is weighted and fits in your hand, like soup cans.
• Resistance: Resistance bands are like giant rubber bands designed to give your muscles a good workout when stretched and pulled. Resistance bands can be attached to furniture, a doorknob, or even your chair. Use these for pull-downs, shoulder rotations, and arm and leg-extensions.
• Flexibility: By practicing mindful breathing and slowly stretching, bending, and twisting, you can limber up and improve your range of motion. Some of these exercises can also be done lying down. Ask your doctor or search online for chair-yoga possibilities.
• Endurance: Check out pool-therapy programs designed for wheelchair-bound seniors. Also, wheelchair-training machines make arm-bicycling and rowing possible. If you lack access to special machines or pools, repetitive movements (like rapid leg lifts or sitting pushups) work just as well to raise your heart rate.