• Improved cardiovascular health. In addition to reducing the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease, exercise may also help improve memory and slow some types of mental decline.
• Reduced risk for a variety of conditions, ranging from stroke and diabetes to breast and colon cancer.
• Stronger bones and less risk of osteoporosis.
• Improved strength, flexibility, and balance, which can help reduce the risk of falls, a leading cause of injuries in older adults.
• An overall improved lifestyle, including better sleep, enhanced confidence and less feeling of isolation.
Ideas for staying active during the winter months.
Here are some strategies to keep seniors moving and active, regardless of the weather forecast.
• Keep it indoors
Don't let cold, sleet or snow spoil a nice walk. Enclosed malls often open early for walkers to enjoy a safe, climate-controlled place to stroll. Some schools also offer the same use of their hallways after school hours. Senior centers and retirement communities also may have indoor walking tracks or fitness equipment such as treadmills to let seniors get their steps in.
• Take a class
Signing up for a winter activity class can provide needed exercise and a chance for social connections. This can take the form of a fitness or aerobics class that covers the basics of staying active. Or for a little more variety, consider instruction in yoga, tai chi, dancing or other forms of healthy movement.
• Take the plunge
Swimming is often overlooked as a form of exercise for seniors, but it is a tremendous option, especially for adults with joint pain and arthritis. It is a low-impact workout for joints and muscles, as close as your nearest YMCA or fitness center. Many facilities offer water aerobics classes for seniors or other opportunities to enjoy the pool during the winter months.
• Design your own exercise routine
Regular moderate exercise doesn't require fitness centers or professional equipment. All it takes is planning and motivation. A regular walk around a living space will do nicely. If stairs are available, even better. The key is to not stay sedentary for prolonged periods. Movement helps muscles stretch so they can stay flexible and maintain a range of motion. For a more formal routine, choose a fitness video from the library or YouTube and create a low impact exercise plan of your own. The type of exercise really doesn't matter. The only requirement is that you stick with it.
• Phone a friend
When it comes to getting motivated about exercise, there’s strength in numbers. Studies have shown that social support helps keep people active, so ask a friend to team up for exercise sessions or join in with organized groups at the senior community to keep exercising on a regular schedule.
Safety first -- and have fun!
About 30 minutes of activity per day, at least five times a week, is all it takes to maintain a healthy exercise regimen. Activities can be broken down into shorter periods if that helps. Just remember to take it easy and be aware of surroundings to minimize the chance of falls.
There's no reason to let winter slow down seniors. Because when you combine moderate exercise with a nutritious diet and plenty of rest, a healthy outcome is always in season.