We all understand the value of getting fit and maintaining that fitness throughout our lives. It’s not as hard when we are younger, where we can incorporate fitness into our recreational activities without much difficulty. Jogging, biking, and even team sports are available and accessible to pick up and go.
Some physical education programs in high school concentrate on life sports––things like swimming and tennis that we can participate in throughout our life. But life happens, aging is and none of us can be at the same level of fitness forever. Sometimes it is just about our aging body, but there can be other causes that require modification in how we work out.
Why We Might Stop Exercising
Maybe we incur an injury, or are diagnosed with arthritis or fibromyalgia, or have a surgery that temporarily stops us from exercising. As we age, our workout goals will be to improve our muscle strength, flexibility, and endurance by adding low impact activities to our workout.
Always warm-up before we start. Stretch your muscles and move your joints. Start with your toes and work your way up. If you are going to be outside, always use sunscreen and reapply every two hours. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
It’s important to dump the “no pain, no gain” mindset. A little muscle soreness after exercise is acceptable, but not pain. If you have pain, especially in your joints, stop the activity you are engaged in. Always check with your doctor before you start a new exercise program.
Go slow. Build up the intensity and the time you work out very gradually.
Swimming is a great and gentle exercise for any age. The Mayo Clinic highlights it as one of the best workouts anyone can participate in:
Here are 4 low-impact, joint-friendly workouts you can add to your swimming routine!
1. Walking In The Pool
If you have a backyard pool that you swim in frequently, change up your routine by walking in the pool. The resistance of the water against the movement of walking will give your legs a good workout while the buoyancy of the water will help prevent injury to your joints. If your pool is an above ground pool, you can walk laps or stay close to the wall and gradually increase the number of laps around the inside perimeter of your pool.
If you have an inground pool with a deep end, you will have to walk side to side. When you get good at walking in the water, try walking backward or alternate each lap. To increase the intensity of the workout and add the muscles of your upper body, swing your arms back and forth in the water as you walk. Face the palms forward to get the maximum resistance.
Here are some walking in the pool tips and some workouts:
Check out some other pool walking exercises that are gentle on the knee:
2. Aqua cycling
This is basically riding a stationary bike in the water. The workout is the same as you would do in a spin class. An Aquacycle is made out of marine steel that can stand up to the pool chemicals, salt, and mineral content of the water without rusting. Again, the buoyancy of the water will protect your joints, while the resistance of the water when you pedal gives the rider a high-intensity, low-impact workout.
If movement is painful for you, try isometrics. In isometrics there is no visible movement; rather, you will tense muscles and hold for several seconds and then relax. As you improve, the time you hold the tension and the number of repetitions are increased. You can do these moves in or out of the water.
Isometric shoulder extension is completed by standing with your back to a hard surface with your arms at your sides and elbows straight. Push your arms back against the wall and hold. Start out with a 5-second hold and then rest. Repeat. Gradually increase the amount of time you hold the pressure and the number of repetitions.
While a sauna is not an exercise itself, it can help to alleviate the soreness of muscles after a workout. A sauna is also a place where the user can remove the stress of the day and return to a balanced peaceful state. Saunas originally were heated by burning wood in an enclosed room. Today, anyone can have the benefit of a home sauna as long as they have access to an electrical outlet. Saunas are portable, so, if you need to relocate, the sauna can come with you.
Here are some simple suggestions for low impact workouts that are compatible in a pool setting. Lots of these might even be offered in your local community center. How fun would it be to cycle along to fun tunes with fellow peers and instructor? It’s a great way to work on our own health while also socializing, therefore we definitely recommend checking out the activity catalogue and see what senior-friendly workouts are available at a community center near you!
Dr. Jane Katz was a competitive Olympic long-distance swimmer and is now in her 70’s, teaching other seniors the swimming exercises. She also shares some tips as well.
Looking for more ideas to incorporate exercises into daily life? Check out some more here:
- The Power of Group Exercises in Seniors
- 6 Easy and Safe Exercises for Seniors
- 7 Ways to Exercise on Vacation
At Nurse Next Door, we’re all about keeping seniors healthy and happy! Find out more about how we can support seniors’ independence here.