When Bill, 85, went in for a routine check-up, he received quite a shock. Despite his restricted diet, Bill had gained 20 pounds in six months; the doctor warned this extra weight could lead to diabetes and heart problems. The prescription? Regular exercise.
Despite continued urging by his children, Bill had stubbornly refused to take daily walks, saying his arthritis made it too painful. The doctor suggested Bill ride a stationary bicycle for just 15 minutes a day to make it easier on his knees.
Regular exercise is important at every stage of life; it keeps us healthy and improves our moods. Yet activity levels often decline as we age. Many seniors with aches and pains prefer to stay on the couch and take it easy. As a caregiver, it’s up to you to encourage your elderly parents to exercise. And the good news is that just a little exercise, every day, can make a big difference.
The following activities are often recommended for seniors trying to stay active:
Walking: Even a slow walk around the block (or the mall) can help seniors stay in shape.
Gardening: The movements associated with gardening exercise the whole body, and it’s been shown to reduce stress.
Dancing: Many seniors enjoy the health and social benefits of square dancing or ballroom dancing.
Swimming/Water Aerobics: Since the water is supporting your body weight, you can get a full workout without pressure on sore joints.
Tai Chi: This martial art has become popular with seniors as a way to improve balance and increase bone density — helping prevent falls and broken bones.
Yoga: A gentle yoga practice can also help strengthen bones, increase flexibility and reduce stress.
Before starting any exercise program, be sure to check with your parents’ doctors to find out which activity and intensity level is right for them.