My mom declares that if she quits moving she gets stiff, sore, and sluggish. So, her approach to senior exercise is to stay busy in her garden, join friends for a session of water aerobics, and lead neighbors in an evening walk around the neighborhood.
I know that not everyone is quite as lucky as I am when it comes to helping our parents stay active. However, there are many senior-based exercise programs that help us encourage seniors to exercise and stay active. One website, in particular, is featured by the National Institute of Health. Check out www.go4life.com, for great ideas on keeping your loved ones healthy, active and fit.
If your parents are in your care at home, it’s very likely that they haven’t been active for a long time. Remember that though exercise is still very important, even in advancing years, it’s vital that your parents start out with very little exertion, and work their way up slowly. This will help them work on their fitness goals without straining their bodies. Good examples are walking or swimming at an easy pace. As time passes and they gain strength, add a little more exertion, or perhaps hand weights. If your loved ones are planning to increase their activity significantly, it’s important to touch base with their health care provider first for a go-ahead.
You may worry as a caregiver whether your loved ones are safe when they exercise. Reassuringly, studies do show that those affected with arthritis, high blood pressure, diabetes, or heart disease will benefit from activity and regular exercise. Certain examples show that exercise can even improve some of these conditions. Especially in these cases, be sure to consult their health care provider before beginning an exercise regimen.
Is Exercise Always Risky for Those of Advanced Years?
You may think that as we age, we should take it easy; that exercise is risky. However it’s actually the reverse. In most cases, when older people lose their abilities to care for things on their own, it’s not because they’re older… it’s because they’re not active. Lack of activity can also lead to increased doctor visits, hospitalizations, and medications. The U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on Physical Activity and Health states that inactive people are almost twice as likely to develop heart disease as those who are more active. That’s a powerful statistic on the side of increased exercise!
If at all possible, work into your loved one’s exercise routine the following four types of activities: endurance, strength, flexibility, and balance. Why? Because each activity type has different benefits. Doing one kind will also improve their ability to do the others. Variety in exercise can also reduce boredom and risk of injury for your parents.
Will Exercise Make That Much Difference?
Perhaps you imagine that at your parent’s age, exercising won’t make that much of a difference. However, the National Institute of Health reassuringly states, “No matter what your age, you can find activities that meet your fitness level and needs.” Remember, the more active and fit your loved ones are, the more potential they have to enjoy their lives.