The Many Options for Senior Fitness at Home
For seniors who have a difficult time leaving their home because of physical limitations or driving restrictions, getting enough physical exercise can be extremily challenging. For these individuals, having an accessible exercise routine that they can do at home is a fantastic solution.
But, at home exercise routines are often a good idea for seniors who do not have restrictions preventing them from leaving their home or participating in regular physical activities. For seniors who usually participate in exercise activities that happen outside, like walking or hiking, or for seniors who don't like to drive to the gym in inclement weather, the winter months can be a detriment to maintaining a regular exercise routine.
When your regular exercise routine is disrupted, having a back-up plan can make all the difference between maintaining the routine and letting it slide.
Create a space inside your home that’s dedicated to exercise.
Creating habits and getting into a new routine can be challenging. In most cases, having outside prompts and reinforcers is essential to creating a routine that turns into a habit.
That’s why it’s important to create a designated space inside the home that’s set up for physical exercise. That doesn’t mean you must have an entire separate exercise room, or even a large exercise area. A perfectly adequate exercise space can be nothing more than a corner of the living room or bed room big enough to hold a yoga mat.
What’s important is that the space exists as a reminder to complete the day’s exercise routine. At minimum, the space should hold a workout or yoga mat. It might also include resistance bands or hand weights.
If you like to follow exercise videos, the space should hold a television, or a stand designed to display a laptop computer or tablet. Far from being a thing of the past, many seniors enjoy exercise videos that walk them through a routine, providing a similar structure to what they might find in a fitness class.
A simple google search will turn up many fitness videos designed for seniors of all levels. In addition, the National Institute on Aging at NIH has a great collection of free “Go4Life” exercise videos on YouTube.
Fitness Apps and Video Games
Fitness apps are an excellent resource for seniors who want to exercise at home. According to a study by the AARP, 67% of respondents 50 years of age and older found fitness trackers to be beneficial.
Aside from simply tracking your level of physical activity, there are many fitness apps that are specifically designed for older adults. Search your app store for fitness apps that help you attain health goals like weight loss or even teach yoga and other simple exercise routines.
Wii games are also an excellent way for seniors to get enough physical exercise without leaving their home. The Nintendo Wii Fit Plus system combines fitness and fun into one package for people of all ages. With Wii Fit, you play video games that get you off the couch, standing, and moving your arms and legs in a sort of virtual fitness world.
Balance Training at home
We don’t need a research report to tell us that the older we get, the more dangerous it is to fall. As we age, a variety of physical conditions can cause us to feel an increased sense of instability. As the sense of instability grows, so does the fear of falling.
And, one of the most natural things to do in response to that fear is avoid activities that cause us to feel unstable.
This pattern of responding to instability by decreasing our activity level sets us down a dangerous path. We avoid certain activities, and as we do, become increasingly sedentary. With inactivity comes muscle loss, less flexibility, joint stiffness, and a shrinking range of motion. All of these lead to an even greater sense of instability. In response, we lower our activity level further, and so on and so on.
Before we know it, we’re caught in a dangerous Cycle of Frailty that’s difficult to get out of.
To prevent this cycle, it’s important for older adults to engage in balance training AND resistance training three or more days a week. Contrary to what you might think, this can be done at home.
The following balance exercises are a great place to start:
- Stand on one foot for at least ten seconds, or as long as possible, then switch to the other foot.
- Position one foot closely in front of the other and walk heel to toe for 20 steps. Steady yourself with a wall if some support is needed.
- Walk in a straight a line as normally as possible, from one end of the room to the other.
- Seated chair exercises - Chair exercises are simple exercises that are done while seated in a chair to help elderly individuals exercise and move without putting pressure or strain on their bodies. They include simple movements of the body, such as bending the feet up and down, lifting a lightweight ball over the head, or lifting the knees.
At Home Step Exercises
Step exercises can provide an aerobic workout that can also strengthen the muscles in your legs and keep your knees limber.
With step aerobics, you step up, around, and down an elevated platform. It’s extremely important for seniors to make sure they are using a step that’s at a safe, comfortable height, is sturdy, and provides ample foot space so that there is less danger of falling off the step while exercising. For seniors with balance issues, it’s vital that the step be placed near a wall or railing that can be easily held onto for stability.
At Home Strength Training with Resistance Bands
Resistance bands are light and compact, making them perfect for strength training at home. With just one tool, seniors can engage in a full-body strength training workout without leaving their home or purchasing expensive strength training equipment.
One of the biggest benefits of resistance band workouts is that resistance bands allow you to challenge your muscles from different angles, which can support your ability to perform many normal daily tasks.
Learn more about the impact that regular balance training can have on older adults, and how the HUR SmartBalance makes it easier than ever for next-generation rehabilitation and senior living providers to assess risk and provide solutions.
Together we can create a new age of strength and balance for the seniors in our communities.