Published: Apr 13, 2016
A low-impact exercise routine can benefit your health by stretching and strengthening your muscles, reducing stress, preventing injury, and even helps to lower your blood pressure. You should always talk to your doctor before starting any exercise program.
Low-impact exercises fall into four categories: endurance, strength, flexibility, and balance. Incorporating all four types of exercise into your routine helps reduce the risk of injury and keeps you from getting bored. There are many low-impact classes for seniors at gyms and senior centers, but you can also exercise at home. Either way, it’s good to enjoy the activities and health benefits ─ while having fun!
Endurance. These exercises increase your heart rate and breathing for an extended period of time. They will make it easier for you to walk farther, faster, or uphill. They also should make everyday activities easier. Some endurance exercises are listed below. Start gradually, and work up to 30 minutes each day, if you are physically able.
Strengthening. Strengthening exercises include the use of hand or ankle weights or resistance bands and tubes for home and fitness center exercises. If you don’t have weights or resistance bands, use soup cans or bottles of water for weights. Fitness centers offer resistance machines, but always ask instructors to help you exercise correctly.
Flexibility. Flexibility is lost with age, so stretching is important to your health and to maintaining your independence. You can stretch for 10 minutes each day at home. Group exercises away from home include dancing, water aerobics, yoga, Pilates, tai chi, or senior stretching classes. Always stretch after your warm-up to prevent injury during exercise, as well as to increase flexibility, range of motion, and improve your exercise performance.
Balance. Balance exercises reduce the risk of falling and can improve your mobility in just 10 minutes per day. Improve your balance by dancing, bouncing on an exercise ball, or participating in a water aerobics class. If you have mobility or balance issues, some fitness and senior centers offer chair aerobics classes to improve your cardiovascular health and your balance.
Here are some great ways to get low-impact exercise:
Walking is one of the best low-impact endurance exercises. It’s not hard to get started, and it's easy enough on the joints that many seniors can keep up a walking routine until very late in life. Be sure to
have the right shoes and do stretching after your walk to protect the muscles that you just worked and prevent injury. If you're new to walking, start with a short distance and increase your walks by a few minutes each time until you can walk for 30- to 60-minute stretches.
Swimming relieves stress on your bones and joints, and conditions your whole body as you move through the water. It has a lower risk of injury than many other exercises, and can even help post-menopausal women avoid bone loss. Water aerobics combines cardiovascular exercise with strength training for a low-impact, full-body workout. The water's resistance strengthens your muscles as you move.
Yoga fulfills all of the categories of good exercise ─ combining endurance with stretches, strength training, flexibility, and balance. Seniors should start with beginners’ classes or sessions that are specifically geared for them.
Gardening is an enjoyable way to get your daily exercise. Digging in the dirt, watering plants, weeding, and other gardening activities work your muscles. If bending and squatting to pull weeds or dig is too much for you, a gardening stool can help you avoid injuring your back or knees.
Tai chi is a meditative exercise that flows slowly from pose to pose. It improves balance, strength, and flexibility. You can find classes at gyms, community centers, or dedicated tai chi studios. The focus on breathing helps to improve concentration and reduce stress, and the slow, flowing movements tone and stretch muscles — but the biggest benefit for seniors is probably improved balance. Balance begins to decline as we age, and good balance helps to prevent falls, a major cause of injury and death among seniors. Tai chi is also gentle on the joints, and helps you to maintain a healthy weight.
Low-impact aerobics include dancing, walking, swimming, water aerobics, chair aerobics, and bouncing on an exercise ball. Get both aerobics and strengthening exercise by using hand or ankle weights while doing these activities. According to a study in The New England Journal of Medicine, a low-impact exercise such as dancing can lower the risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Comfort Keepers® can help. Our caregivers, or Comfort Keepers®, can help establish a daily routine with your loved one that promotes a healthy lifestyle and independent living. Call your local office today.
How Stuff Works: Health. “10 Low-impact Exercises for Seniors” by Becky Striepe. Web. 2015.
AZCentral. “Low-impact Exercises for Seniors” by Kathryn Rateliff Barr. Web. 2015.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Physical Activity is Essential to Healthy Aging”. Web. 2015.