It’s no surprise that exercise can promote a more enriched, vibrant, balanced, and robust quality of life in senior adults. As research points out, it can also increase longevity and combat some forms of chronic illness too. A study from the American Geriatrics Society found that seniors who are active on a regular basis have a 77–92 percent lower risk of premature mortality than those who are less active.
The data goes on to reveal that a lack of exercise contributes to 5.3 million deaths each year from diabetes, stroke, cancer, high blood pressure, kidney failure, cardiovascular issues, Parkinson’s disease, and even mental illness. However, when the body is able to move consistently as it was designed to, this allows for improved organ function, blood and oxygen circulation, mental and emotional state, and physical range-of-motion. As such, exercise can lead to more independence and wellness as a person grows older.
Yet some barriers stand between seniors and the movement they need, such as fear of injury, lack of motivation or confidence, body limitations, boredom, or dislike of exercise, according to the Clinical Medicine and Research Journal. This is why it’s crucial to find activities that are not just beneficial—but enjoyable too. Maintaining health and fitness should not be a burden, so here is a list of unique senior exercise ideas that combine entertainment with physical activity.
If you’re intimidated at the thought of a yoga practice with all those unfamiliar mantras, difficult poses, and impressive balance, then allow chair yoga to dispel those insecurities. This gentler and lower impact version of yoga modifies the poses to accommodate your individual mobility. Rather than a headstand, think a seated upper-body twist. Chair yoga offers several holistic benefits, adds the BMC Geriatrics Journal, such as increased flexibility and coordination, as well as reduced stress, anxiety, or depression.
Just because you might not have access to a golf course, baseball diamond, or tennis court does not mean you can’t participate in these activities still. Digital and virtual senior exercise ideas can help get your heart pumping as well. Nintendo’s Wii Sports video game console (recently popular with seniors), makes channeling your inner athlete both fun and accessible, whether you swing a racquet or bowl a strike. Although it’s a virtual game, Wii Sports has also been shown to boost social interaction and decrease loneliness in senior adults through friendly competition with their friends or family members, the Journal of Medical Internet Research confirms.
This ancient practice is a form of Chinese martial arts—but don’t confuse tai chi with the high-intensity kicks, punches, and combat moves that other martial arts are known for. A tai chi flow is more controlled, repetitive, measured, and intentional. The pace is slower, and the focus is on deep breaths and body postures combined with meditation. For seniors, a tai chi regimen could enhance motor function and cognitive awareness, both of which can start to decline once you’re over 50, notes Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.
Not all physical activities need to break a sweat to qualify as exercise, and that’s true of gardening, in particular. While this might seem like more of a hobby than a workout, it can yield various aerobic benefits too. Actions such as pruning a tree branch, shoveling, squatting to lift a sack of mulch, or bending to pull a weed, contract muscles in the legs, arms, core, back, and shoulders. Preventative Medicine Reports also mentions that contact with nature can alleviate chronic disease symptoms.
Also known as ping-pong, this fast and dynamic sport requires acute focus, technical precision, and quick reflexes, which makes it the ideal game to promote both mind and body stimulation. In fact, studies indicate there could be a correlation between seniors who play table tennis and potentially delayed onset of dementia, points out the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. This is because table tennis sharpens fine motor skills, which, in turn, helps the brain stay nimble.
Try These Fun Senior Exercise Ideas
This just scratches the surface of all the benefits that a consistent exercise regimen has to offer. These senior exercise ideas are also perfect activities to do with your family or friends. Grab the grandkids and work up a sweat in Wii Tennis. Or ask your friends to join a weekly tai chi class.
Each of the senior exercise ideas listed here is specifically tailored to older adults, so choose one (or more) and commit to making it a new lifestyle habit—the results are worthwhile and longlasting!
Remember, always consult your physician or a medical professional before you start a new exercise program.