Guest Post Author: Kelli Huggins | Grace Ridge Retirement Community
Exercise in Older Adults
Exercise plays an important role in overall wellness and provides the strength to participate in the activities we love. As a Well4Life Wellness Coordinator and Licensed Recreational Therapy Assistant, I’ve dedicated the past 10 years to developing tactics and discovering programs to engage seniors in fitness.
Fitness can be as simple as adding small changes to your daily routine to build strength and balance or adopting more formal training, such as the Ageless Grace program or Tai Chi.
Below are a series of suggestions for caregivers and seniors to encourage movement and maximize health benefits with and without a certification.
Movement with Music
For seniors new to a fitness routine, music can encourage participation and keep them on track to achieve their fitness goals.
For the best results, tailor music based on resident experiences and personal preferences. If it is near a holiday, incorporate seasonal music. If there is no specific preference, soft music, classical and easy listening are great for any group.
Continue to modify the music by adjusting the volume, providing headphones if needed and incorporating song requests.
As a caregiver or as you age, you understand how important it is to continue to participate in the activities you love. Doing so not only maintains a routine but can also provide a certain level of independence.
Strength exercises allow your body to move more easily, making everyday activities like climbing the stairs, picking up groceries, standing up from a seated position and opening jars much easier.
Adding strength training to your routine doesn’t need to be complicated. Household items and your own body weight are the perfect tools. Try using soup cans as hand weights or adding leg raises and overhead arm raises to your routine to help build muscle.
Strength, in combination with balance, is incredibly beneficial to seniors. Adding short balance exercises to your daily routine can make a huge difference. Try standing on one foot while doing the dishes or brushing your teeth. Incorporate balance into your routine by holding both hands out and straight while walking or walk heal-to-toe as if you were on a balance beam.
Practicing balance exercises will help you navigate uneven sidewalks or foundation, reach items on high shelves, bend over to reach low items, turn around quickly and avoid falls.
Balance can also be improved through the practice of Tai Chi, an ancient Chinese art form and one of the most effective exercises for health, mind, and body. Dr. Paul Lam’s principles include mind integrated with the body, incorporating the fluidity of movements, controlled breathing, and mental concentration.
After your body is fully warm, starting with the top of the body and going down to the feet, you can move into the basic tai chi movement with a focus on improving range of motion.
For those suffering from arthritis, Tai Chi improves muscle strength, flexibility and overall fitness. The benefits of Tai Chi also extend to fall prevention as the movements focus on weight transference to improve overall balance.
To further improve cognitive performance, the Ageless Grace program, created by Denise Medved, incorporates 21 simple tools for lifelong comfort and ease. The program helps develop and strengthen new neural pathways to support a long and healthy life.
The 21 tools are based on everyday natural movements and are focused on the ability to respond, react and recover. The tools are easy to follow at home and are designed to be performed seated in a chair, down on the floor, or standing.
The tools are uniquely named to make them easy to remember. Some of my favorites include:
- Exercise Tool #1 Juicy Joints – joint mobility, flexibility and circulation
- Exercise Tool #6 Try Chi – joint stability, eye-hand coordination and breathing
- Exercise Tool #10 Rockin’ Rockettes – lower body strength, hip mobility, ankle and foot flexibility and arch support.
The Ageless Grace program helps improve joint mobility, spinal flexibility, right-left brain coordination, bone density, balance, fall prevention, self-esteem and confidence.
About the Author
Kelli Huggins, Well4Life Wellness Coordinator and Licensed Recreational Therapy Assistant at Grace Ridge Retirement Community in Morganton, NC, has developed senior wellness techniques and educated professionals across the state for the past decade. Kelli recently presented at the North Carolina Recreational Therapy Association on exercise in older adults. Follow Grace Ridge Retirement Community on Facebook or YouTube.