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The Importance of Exercise for Seniors

When it comes to managing arthritis, improving balance, feeling lighter both mentally and physically, and minimising the risk of disease, the best thing anyone can do, at any age, is exercise!  Exercise has been shown to improve immune and digestive functioning, blood pressure and bone density, lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, osteoporosis, certain cancers. It also enhances mobility, flexibility, and balance therefore reducing the risk of falls.

The benefits are clear, but often the hardest part of exercise can be getting started!  It is important to start small and slow, doing everything in moderation, without strain. Doing a little each day, in the comfort and safety of your own home will soon have you reaping the benefits and feeling able to do more. If you need some extra care and support to get started, you might find working with someone who has been trained in the Home Care Assistance Balanced Care Method™ might be just the thing for you.   The Balanced Care Method™ focuses on healthy nutrition, physical and mental exercise, social engagement and a purposeful and calm lifestyle. Click here to find out more about our Balanced Care Method™.

Getting started with Chair Exercises

You don’t have to necessarily get up and jump around for exercise to be effective. You can simply sit in a chair to exercise. From gently flexing your neck, to stretching your feet with heel raises, you can effectively warm up and do some serious good for your body!

Among the many chair exercises that you can do are:

  • Neck Stretch
  • Shoulder Curls
  • Arm Strengthening
  • Leg Strengthening
  • Ankle and Foot Flexibility
  • Core Strengthening

Example chair neck stretch exercise: This exercise will warm up your neck and group of muscles at the top of your back.

  1. In a sturdy chair, sit up straight and slowly and gently tilt your head toward your right shoulder until you begin to feel the stretch. Breathe.
  2. While in this position, gradually extend your left arm down like you are reaching for something on the floor. You will feel a stretch on the left side of your neck.
  3. Release, breathe, and repeat on the other side. Do two to five repetitions per side.

Example core exercise (Isometric Contractions): This exercise works deep abdominals and the pelvic floor, which are the foundation of the core. By doing this, you protect your spine and maximise strength, agility, and power.

  1. While sitting up in a chair, slowly suck in your stomach, engaging the abdominal muscles. Depending on preference, you can breathe in between 1 second and 20 seconds per inhale. The objective is to inhale and engage your stomach muscles, and to do this slowly.
  2. Exhale slowly and repeat. Begin with 5 and work your way up to 10 or 15.

You can findmore chair exercise videos including chair yoga available online and through public libraries.

Balance Exercises for Seniors

According to the Australian & New Zealand Falls Prevention Society, around one in three people age 65 and older fall each year. Each fall doubles a senior’s risk of falling again and increases the likelihood of an early death. By practicing a few gentle exercises at home on a regular basis, you can gain strength and improve your balance and coordination which decreases the risk of falling.

Exercises that improve balance include:

  • Clock Reach
  • Heel Toe Walk
  • Tightrope Walk
  • Eye Tracking
  • Knee Marching
  • Body Circles

Example balance exercise: Clock Reach: This balance exercise helps stabilise and coordinate movement while improving balance.

  1. Hold onto a chair with your left hand. Visualise a clock with 12 in front of you and 6 behind you.
  2. Stand on your left leg only and raise your arm to 12 o’clock, then 3 o’clock, then 6 o’clock. Repeat one to five times.
  3. Then move to the other side of the chair and stand on your right leg and bring your arm to 12 o’clock, then 3 o’clock, then 6 o’clock.
  4. Repeat one to five times.

Exercise classes for Seniors

There are countless exercise classes out there, and you will find that some are designed specifically for older people.  A comprehensive exercise program should include stretching, strengthening/ resistance training and some form of cardio workout.

If you are not sure what to look for that cover these key types of exercise, you might want to consider:

  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • Tai Chi
  • Water Aerobics
  • Cycling Classes

Yoga: There are many different types of yoga. There is a class for everyone regardless of ability. Yoga incorporates using the breath to stretch, strengthen, and improve flexibility. It is a practice that can work for anyone.

Pilates: This is a wonderful exercise that concentrates on the core and strengthening and is low impact. It helps make the body more flexible, improve balance, and improve strength. Exercises can be modified to meet different needs. Pilates is gaining popularity among seniors.

Tai Chi: Tai Chi is a Chinese tradition that is deceptively effective in improving balance, flexibility, and strength. It involves learning slow, focused movements matched to deep breathing. Each posture moves to the next ensuring constant motion.

Water Aerobics:  This type of workout focuses on endurance, resistance training, and creating an enjoyable atmosphere. It is conducted in the pool, but run as an aerobics class, not a swim class.Cycling Classes: A cycling class, also known as a spin class, uses stationary bikes in a group setting with an instructor to guide you through your ride. It focuses on intervals of intensity and can build endurance and strength.

What about Walking?

One of the best forms of exercise that can be done on your own or with a friend is walking!  While there are not many walking classes, you may be able to walk to yoga to warm up the body before class.  Just 30 minutes every day can increase your cardiovascular fitness, strengthen bones, reduce excess body fat, and boost muscle power and endurance. It can also reduce your risk of developing conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis and some cancers.

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