Keeping active is essential to aging well. Seniors who are active stay well (mentally and physically) longer than those who don’t. Unfortunately, stats show that seniors are less likely to engage in physical activity than any other age group.
The Benefits of Staying Active as an Older Adult
Regardless of age, being physically active has countless benefits. For older adults in particular, though, physical activity can be especially rewarding, as it:
- Reduces the risk of falls and the risk of injury from a fall
- Lowers the risk of dementia
- Improves mood and lowers the risk of depression
- Boosts cognitive function (including memory and attention)
- Provides opportunities for socialization (which carries its own long list of benefits)
- Promotes independence
- Wards off heart disease and diabetes
- Helps with the maintenance of healthy bones, joints, and muscles
Yoga is a great exercise for the body and mind. For every yoga pose, there’s an adapted pose for people who may struggle with the standard version. If balance is an issue, try chair yoga - a version that’s easier on joints because the chair takes most of the weight.
Mind the Grandkids
If there’s a sure way to stay active, it’s grandkids. Volunteer to mind your grandkids after school or while their parents enjoy a date night. Your children will appreciate the help, you’ll spend quality time with your grandchildren, and there’s no telling what sort of fun activities you’ll get into.
Explore Your City
Most cities and small towns are very walkable. Seek out a nearby park or a walkable shopping district and head out for a stroll. Chances are, you’ll be so focused on enjoying the sights that you won’t even notice that you’re exercising.
Plant a Garden
If you struggle with mobility and leaving home is too much of a hassle, start a garden. Gardening is an excellent activity that can be enjoyed by just about anyone. Start small, if you’re not ready to commit. Plant a few herbs and place them on a windowsill. It’ll help you get up and about regularly, and you’ll love the feeling of seeing something wonderful grow from nothing.
Start a Cookie Exchange
If you have a sweet tooth, recruit your friends to start a once-monthly cookie exchange. Each friend can bake a different type of cookie, and you can share them among yourselves. Take it a step further by arranging a tea party where you can get together and enjoy your snacks while enjoying each others’ company.
Visit a Handmade Market or Museum
Bustling environments like markets and museums are good for the mind and body. You’ll have opportunities to meet new people and learn new things. You’re much more likely to stay active if you actually enjoy the activity you’re partaking in.
Swimming or Water Aerobics
When you exercise in water, there’s less stress on your bones, joints, and muscles. You’ll feel lighter, less fatigued, and you’ll be able to do much more than you could outside of the water. Activities that meet regularly, like water aerobics classes, are a great way to make friends and form bonds with new people.
Virtual sports are fun and customizable. With activity-based video games, you can try all sorts of new workouts in the comfort of your own home. If you’re competitive, the games usually use metrics to track performance and improvements - try to achieve a personal best, or show your best friend who’s really younger.
Get Your Friends Together for an Art Class
Creative activities, like pottery-making and paint nights, are wildly popular right now. Gather your friends for a night out, and go home with a beautiful piece of art that you created while enjoying plenty of laughs and some tasty snacks.
Join a Senior-Friendly Walking Group
Walking is one of the oldest, simplest forms of exercise. Walking alone can be a little dull, but walking with a group can be more fun than you might imagine. Walking groups are great for building a team-like relationship. You’ll improve your balance and stamina, and you’ll have tons of support doing it.
A Few Final Words …
Try not to feel discouraged if you’re not where you want to be in terms of fitness. Everyone starts somewhere. If you’re not feeling confident, enlist help. The National Council on Aging offers a list of organizations that host or promote senior-specific activities. And remember, a five-minute stroll is better than five minutes spent on the couch.