As a long, looming Winter begins to shift into sharper focus, spare a thought for the over-65s. Those cherished visits from family and friends and trips out which bring so much colour to the day are under threat from further restrictions, and continued good health is more of a worry than ever.
Though we can’t do much about the Government’s unpredictability in their decision making, the elderly can still take control of their fitness, even if confined to their homes this Winter. To help improve balance and muscle mass, and fight off cardiovascular decline, here are 5 ideas for the elderly to keep fit in Winter 2020.
According to the NHS, adults aged over 65 should ‘’aim to be physically active every day (and) do activities that improve strength, balance and flexibility on at least 2 days a week’’. Firstly, then, let’s look at that flexibility, which can suffer as we age and become less active. Keeping moving and nimble is so important for bone and muscle health, and the good news is that a few simple stretches each day is all it takes.
Consider participating in a yoga for the elderly class online, which will help with both flexibility and balance, in turn reducing the risk of a fall. Doing so will also encourage a sense of community and socialising, however remote, which might be missing from our lives in the coming months.
Alternatively, you can try a few seated yoga poses and stretches on your own time. A simple sky stretch, fingers interlocked and palms facing upwards, can relieve stress, whilst a seated shoulder squeeze – fingers are again interlocked but this time, your energy is focused on pushing down and behind your back, arms at a 45-degree angle to the floor and palms facing downwards – also helps to iron out a few kinks.
STOP THE SITTING
An increasingly sedentary lifestyle (only exacerbated by the potential of further COVID-19 restrictions) is a threat to all age groups, and the elderly are certainly no exception. Indeed, the WHO declared at the start of the millennium that ‘’physical inactivity is a leading cause of disease and disability’’.
This, it seems, is particularly applicable to the elderly, with Senior Lifestyle magazine cautioning that ”relevant to the older adult population is the fact that decreased hip flexibility, a problem associated with sitting disease, is one of the most common factors in falls in the elderly’’.
It’s vital, then, that seniors make an effort to get up and active. Two great ways to encourage this is firstly, by setting regular reminders – via an alarm clock, by using a Smart Home Hub, or on a phone – to have a short walk around the house or even standing for a few moments, to break up the monotony of the day. And, secondly, to invest in a pedometer to keep track of just how sedentary or active your day has been.
Those who suffer from decreased mobility can still benefit from chalking up the steps. If inclined, ascending-based walking is too difficult, fear not; firstly, research stairlift prices and consider investing in mobility assistance around the home. Indeed, making your home more accessible can improve your mobility and help to maintain your wellbeing. Moreover, it can reduce the risk of falls and injury which will of course impede your fitness. And rest assured, walking on the spot still brings benefits, if that’s all you can manage.
GET INTO THE GARDEN
An important part of staying fit and healthy is getting outside, and unfortunately this winter, we’re all going to be spending more time than ever at home. Enter the garden. No really, enter it.
While winter can feel like an unappealing, gloomy time to be in the garden, there’s much to be done. From clearing up leaves to deadheading and pruning summer-flowering shrubs, Winter gardening can do wonders for our fitness, improving dexterity and strength, muscle mass and aerobic endurance, not to mention its mental health benefits. The experts over at Country File have created this month by month winter gardening guide, do check it out here.
Walking around the garden is another wonderful way to keep fit and get some much needed vitamin D in Winter. However, walking the same path throughout the Winter could really take a toll on the lawn. Consider laying a mulch or gravel path or hiring a landscape gardener to lay some paving stones. Keep accessibility in mind here, too, and make the necessary changes you need so you can get the most out of your garden this Winter.
Finally, there’s also lots of hardy vegetables that you can grow in the colder seasons. Not only does a Winter allotment patch in the garden keep you fit, it means you’ll eat more vegetables which will contribute to your overall fitness. Some would call that a double whammy.
So, we’ve talked about sitting-based flexibility exercises, and also introduced the idea of having a walk around the house or garden to improve movement and motion. What if there was an exercise which combined the two? Well, Tai Chi could be the answer. This gentle, low intensity martial art is a wonderful way for seniors to keep active and dial into their mindful, meditative side.
Sometimes called ‘meditation in motion’, this ancient practice relies on a flowing motion and deep breathing which can help the elderly hugely with balance and stress relief, in turn preserving their independence for longer. In these tough times, we all need a bit of that, right?
Also focusing on the flow of movement rather than the static poses favoured by yoga practice, pilates can also bring great benefits to the over-65s. Particularly adept at strengthening balance, posture and joint issues, pilates focuses on core strength in particular, which provides a useful antitode to the increased time spent sitting which we mentioned earlier. Seniors living with arthritis or osteoporosis may find the practice especially helpful.
You can find some great pilates classes online, which are specifically designed for seniors. That said, it’s more sensible to have a few sessions with a teacher first, to help you understand the basic principles underscoring the discipline. What’s more, you should always discuss with your GP about any new forms of exercise you’re considering, to avoid the risk of injury.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Variety is the spice of life and the potential monotony of the next few months spent at home threatens the application of this maxim. That said, seniors can still inject diversity into their exercise. In fact, doing so is the best way to bring motivation, dedication and the desired results. So, a combination of the above, of stretches, yoga, step-accumulation, pilates and Tai Chi, may well be the most efficient route to a more flexible, fitter you when we emerge from hibernation in 2021.
Do check out our tips on 6 IDEAL ways to help the elderly this winter for more of the same!