Regular exercise is essential to our health and wellbeing, but it becomes even more vital in older people. However, some seniors are concerned about exercising, but the health benefits that come with an active lifestyle override the risks. While the healing and recovery period from injuries slow down as you age, engaging in moderate-level exercises is beneficial for people of all ages.
In addition to physiotherapy treatment, seniors who engage in regular exercise are more likely to stay healthy. Studies confirmed that living an active lifestyle can help improve blood pressure, neurocognitive function, and lipid profile, as well as reduce the risk of diabetes, osteoarthritis, and osteoporosis.
Here are other great benefits of exercise in seniors:
- Improve Health
Engaging in simple home exercises for seniors can benefit better overall health quality than those with a sedentary lifestyle. Active seniors are less likely to experience chronic health problems and diseases and have better immune and digestive systems.
- Manage Body Weight
Maintaining a healthy body weight is crucial for seniors. As we age, the rate of our metabolism slows down. This makes exercise even more vital to losing extra pounds. Adding cardio and strength training workout to your exercise plan not only increases muscle mass but also boosts metabolism rate and burns more calories, promoting weight loss.
- Improve Balance
Seniors are more at risk of fall injuries because they slowly lose balance. With the diminishing bone strength and density, injuries caused by falling become a more serious concern. Engaging in low-impact exercises can help improve muscle strength and bone health. Before starting exercises for seniors, be sure to get a bone density test to know their risk of osteoporosis.
- Increase Bone Health and Strength
Building healthy bones and maintaining bone strength are crucial, especially when we reach our senior years. Like muscles, regular exercise helps strengthen our bones. Our bone tissues respond well to any force placed upon them. Exercising enables your body to build more bone cells, making it denser and stronger. Bone strengthening exercises are especially important in keeping your spine healthy and strong.
Exercises that Improve Balance, Flexibility, and Strength in Seniors
It is a common misconception that getting older means becoming less mobile. Several studies reported that adults aged 50 and more are sedentary due to fear of falling, experiencing pain while exercising, or believing that they can no longer manage to engage in physical activities.
While some of these concerns are true, staying active is essential for seniors. To ensure their safety and avoid potential injuries, exercise should be supervised by a physiotherapist. When done right, physiotherapy exercises for the elderly can improve your balance, make you feel better, and increase your longevity, promoting a more positive outlook in life.
Let us take a look at some exercises that are ideal for seniors:
- Balance Exercises
Many seniors experience dizziness and instability due to poor vision, hearing loss, and side effects from medications. Poor balance can increase the risk of falling, which can have serious complications. With falls being the major cause of injuries and deaths among seniors, the need to improve balance becomes more critical.
Consider these helpful balance exercises for seniors:
- One-Legged Stand
This is one of the most basic exercises that help improve balance in seniors. You will need a sturdy chair for this exercise. Hold the back of the chair with both hands and stand on one foot. Keep the centre of gravity without lifting the other foot high off the floor. Hold the position for a few seconds. Slowly switch your feet and work up the same position (but with the other feet) for up to a minute, if you can. As you start to progress, try to steady yourself using only one hand, and eventually with no hands.
This balancing exercise requires masking tape and a few small, soft items for a little obstacle course. If necessary, do not hesitate to ask for help when putting down a strip of tape on the floor and laying a couple of foam blocks or small stuffed animals along with it. Once the obstacle course is done, start the exercise by walking along the taped line and cautiously stepping over the objects. You can also walk around the obstacles in a zigzag pattern. Not only this exercise improves your balance but also prevents the risk of tripping over by making you more alert to the objects on the floor.
- Exercises to Boost Flexibility
The pain caused by osteoarthritis can prevent seniors from moving around. When we become inactive, it makes pain and immobility even worse in the long run. Here are some simple exercises for seniors at home that can help improve mobility, reduce muscle pain, and boost flexibility.
- Neck Stretches
Neck stretches are one of the simplest seated exercises for seniors that help treat neck and upper spine pain. While sitting comfortably on a chair, tip your chin down to your chest. Turn your head gently to one side and hold the position for 15 seconds. Do the same for the opposite side. Repeat the process as many times as you can. Simple neck stretches not only reduce neck pain but also boost mobility. This is extremely essential for seniors who drive to help them look around easily.
- Shoulder Rolls
Our shoulders can move up, down, forward and back with ease. However, most of our day-to-day activities can cause rounded shoulders. To correct the problem, we tend to press our shoulders too far back. The shoulder rolls exercise helps address rounded shoulders problems.
Stand tall with your arms firmly placed by your sides. Slowly lift your shoulders towards your ears and gently shift them forward, down, back, and up towards the ears. Repeat the same process as many as you can and finally, with your shoulder away from your ears and slightly back. The best way to perform the shoulder roll exercise is in front of a mirror so you can easily adjust your alignment whenever necessary.
- Strength Exercises
Losing strength can be frustrating to many seniors as it reduces their ability to perform basic daily tasks, such as housekeeping, shopping, laundry, and even self-care.
To ensure independence and a long quality of life, try these effective muscle toning exercises:
- Straight Leg Lifts to the Back
The purpose of this exercise is to strengthen your torso, glutes, and the back of your legs. In a standing position, engage your abdominal muscles or core. Shift your weight to the left leg, while maintaining a long right leg and flexing your right foot. Tilt your torso slightly forward but make sure to keep your head high and avoid bending forward. Repeat this process on your right leg as many as you can. Complete several repetitions with your left foot.
Have a chair in place and back right up to it, pretending that you are going to sit down. Bend your knees and gently lower your body towards the seat. Before you can even touch the surface of the seat, slowly stand again. Bend your hips while engaging your abdominal muscle. Maintaining good posture and lifting your torso helps make the exercise easier. As you progress, add hand weights to make the process more challenging.
While seniors avoid engaging in physical activities or exercise due to pain or limited range of motion, a sedentary lifestyle can only make the pain and mobility issues even worse.
At Westwood Physiotherapy & Wellness, we have a team of professional physiotherapists who can recommend doable exercises that will help you become stronger, more flexible, and better balanced. Give us a call at (519) 341-5161 to book our physiotherapy services in Guelph.