The Power of Group Exercise in Seniors

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Have you heard of the phrase “movement is medicine”, or “sitting is the new smoking”? Did your family physician use it when they encouraged you to start exercising? There is no denying that we are constantly given information about the health risks of inactivity. But why is starting and maintaining an exercise routine so difficult? This post will discuss some reasons why starting an exercise routine is challenging, especially for seniors, and how we can guide our loved ones to enjoy and partake in physical activity.

The Current Recommendations

The Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines(1) for adults age 65+ suggests the following:

  • “150 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity per week, in bouts of 10 minutes or more.”
  • Weight training is also suggested at “2 days per week” to help with daily household activities.

Weight training is important for example, in maintaining knee strength for easy transition from sitting to standing throughout aging.

One Missing Recommendation

With all the resources put into these recommendations, why do we still have trouble adopting exercise into our lives? Could it be that people think exercise is running, jogging, and/or biking? One potential answer may be related to our human nature of being social animals. We are biologically programmed as pack animals that love to socialize in groups. That may explain why running and lifting weights alone is boring.Our need for others may explain why community center dance classes have consistent attendance and are full of laughter. These social exercise activities simply bring us together, engage us, provide us with support in the initial stages, and ultimately help us adopt an exercise program. These group supports are especially important in seniors, and should be more clearly stated in the exercise recommendations.

Group Exercise Examples

There are many great examples of successful group exercise activities that attract crowds. The following
are a couple activities that may stimulate seniors physically, mentally, and socially.

  1. Tai Chi is a great example of a group exercise activity: it allows for balance training, remembering choreography, and social engagement. At many shopping malls, Tai Chi groups gather in the hundreds to perform the routine together by memory.
  1. Aerobics and Dance classes also have high attendance at community centers. Examples of these classes include aqua aerobics, step aerobics, and zumba. What is great about these programs is the safety supervision, and the music. The music prompts nostalgic memories, starts conversations, and/or simply puts smiles on faces.

To summarize, not only does exercising in groups provide physical benefits, it can also provide mental stimulation, and a vast social support network. This support network of classmates may refer community support organizations, therapists, or the best neighborhood coffee shop! Go and join a community group class today!

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