While we can’t stop time, there are some things we can do to slow down the aging process and make your journey easier. Increasing our physical activity provides many health benefits and older adults in particular can gain a lot from staying active. Regular physical activity improves balance, muscle strength, reduces stress and even benefits your mental health.
Studies show that people with arthritis, heart disease, or diabetes benefit from regular exercise. Exercise also helps people with high blood pressure, balance problems, or difficulty walking.
Try incorporating the following exercises into your weekly routine and hopefully you’ll see some positive benefits in your body.
Walk to Protect Against Dementia
In one U.S. study involving more than 1,700 adults followed for six years, people over 65 who exercised for 15 minutes three times a week reduced their risk for dementia by one-third. Another study, found that walking about 72 blocks a week halted brain shrinkage and cut the risk for developing cognitive decline and dementia by 50 percent.
So go ahead, set a walking date with your spouse, a friend neighbor, or even your caree. You don’t have to go far to make a big difference. This is also an opportunity to take time for yourself. Take a 20 minute walk with your favorite music. You’ll come back feeling refreshed.
Practice Tai Chi to Prevent Falls
One of the greatest threats to senior health is falling. One in three seniors falls every year, resulting in more than 2 million injuries and nearly 20,000 deaths. Tai chi involves a series of gentle stretches and poses that flow from one to the next. The idea is to help you focus on your movement and breathing. Researchers at the University of North Carolina found that older people who took tai chi courses twice a week for eight weeks improved their balance and increased their sense of well-being.
Many senior centers and community centers offer Tai Chi classes for free or at a very low cost. If Tai Chi isn’t your thing, consider taking a balance class. If you or your parent are still having balance issues, evaluate your medications and health to be sure it isn’t medically related.
Do Leg Exercises to Prevent Swelling
As you age, you’re more likely to experience swelling in the legs, calves, and feet. To reduce such swelling, lie on your side and circle your top leg in the air. You can also do calf raises by standing on the floor and raising yourself up so only the balls of your feet are touching the ground. Through such exercise, you’re increasing blood circulation and helping fluid to move more easily through your body.
I used to drive a 90 year old woman who had dementia to a weekly folk dance class. Even with her walker, she participated to the best of her ability because she enjoyed the music and movement. If she can move, anyone can. Was there a physical activity you enjoyed when you were younger? If not, has there been something you have wanted to try? Most senior centers and community centers have various dance classes, yoga and Pilates classes geared towards seniors. There are always modifications you can make to accommodate your own physical limitations. You have nothing to lose and so much to gain.