Growing older doesn’t have to mean declining physical fitness. In fact, many adults gain a renewed interest in health and personal fitness because they have more time to devote to exercise. Some people even become weightlifters for the first time as older adults.
However, many adults find that achieving and maintaining physical fitness is more challenging as they age. Wear and tear conditions like osteoarthritis can make exercise more difficult, and high-impact exercise can exacerbate chronic pain.
7 of the Best Low-Impact Exercises for Seniors
Implementing intentional low-impact workouts into your daily routine offers the following benefits (particularly for older adults):
- Puts minimal strain on joints
- Poses a low fall risk
- Develops balance and coordination
- Stimulates appetite
- Promotes better sleep
- Enhances immune response
- Improves mental health
Try one or more of the practices below for a productive, non-strenuous workout.
1. Water Aerobics
To avoid unnecessary stress on joints, try practicing water aerobics. If you have a pool available, this sport is a great way to build strength and get in some cardio without joint overexertion. Beginners who aren’t sure where to start are encouraged to take a class to build a foundation for self-guidance. Water aerobics classes are also excellent avenues for finding friends with similar interests to practice with outside of class.
2. Pilates, Yoga, & Tai Chi
The slow, mindful movements involved in these exercises not only develop strength, but also provide other benefits. For example, yoga can reduce anxiety, chronic pain and stress. The attentive, purposeful stretching associated with these exercises gradually enhances flexibility, endurance and mindfulness.
Traditional dance classes may feel far behind you, but barre allows you to experience the benefits of dance instruction without the pressure of performance. Barre provides a receptive, beginner-friendly environment that fosters mobility and strength through the simple grace of basic dance movements.
The prospect of walking without a destination may seem nonsensical. However, a brisk walk alone, with friends or alongside a canine companion can contribute to wellness. Enjoy the outdoors, stop once in a while to smell the flowers and put one foot in front of the other. Eventually, this exercise won’t feel like exercise!
Similar to water aerobics, exercising in a pool or body of water causes considerably less strain on joints. Swimming provides the benefits of cardio workouts — like running — without nearly as much stress on knees and ankles. Swimming is also an excellent way to condition muscles and joints for more intense or high-impact exercises.
Spin bikes — or stationary bikes — are excellent for low-impact exercise at any fitness level. Similar to the options listed above, cycling offers a terrific cardiovascular workout while building muscle strength, mobility and stamina.
7. Weight Training
Low-intensity exercises like those outlined above can often help you build up to higher-intensity workouts. As your muscles adjust to regular movement, adding resistance to your exercise routine with moderate body weight or strength training combats loss of muscle mass, or sarcopenia. Free weights and resistance bands facilitate a range of movement options to gradually build intensity.
Getting the Most Out of Your Fitness Routine
If you’re new to exercise, consider talking to a doctor about the best fitness options for your lifestyle. A trained physical therapist or exercise therapist can provide personalized routines and techniques for managing chronic pain and specific health conditions. Personal trainers develop customized programs conducive to your individual fitness level and overall goals.
You can also perform high-intensity interval training (HIIT) by doing brief spurts of more intense exercise. For example, you can speed swim for 20 seconds, then swim at a slower pace. HIIT exercises are the equivalent of running a timed sprint, conditioning the body for more strenuous activity without burning you out.
Maintaining Fitness at Any Age
Regular exercise promotes a healthy lifestyle as you age, allowing you to continue doing the things you love. Whether that’s traveling, crafting, gardening or some other hobby, maintaining your physical fitness helps you participate in the other important aspects of your life.
As we learned, gradually adding resistance to your exercises with weights or bands keeps muscles engaged, combatting degeneration. Additionally, a healthy intake of essential nutrients, such as protein and vitamin D, can further restore muscle mass.
Proteins exist in all our cells and are vital for our physical functioning. The National Resource Center on Nutrition & Aging suggests consuming approximately 1-1.2 grams of protein per kilogram (about 2.2 lbs) of body weight daily to combat muscle loss and malnutrition.
Vitamin D supports bone strength and resilience but doesn’t occur naturally in many foods. It is primarily absorbed through the skin in the form of sunlight. Insufficient levels are connected to osteoporosis, so experts suggest older adults consume 600-800 international units (IU) daily via oral supplements.
Decreasing muscle mass as you age also leads to more difficulty with balance. As early as age 50, balance begins to decline, with one-third of adults over 65 suffering a serious fall. So how can older adults counteract these statistics?
Maintaining good balance relies on nearly every muscle in your body. Resistance training, weightlifting, and periodic stretching build stamina and strength in these muscles, promoting better coordination and balance. These qualities are the foundation for preventing a harmful fall, which is why many HumanGood Life Plan Communities offer popular classes that focus primarily on improving balance.
Despite all the advantages of staying active, comprehensive health and wellness encompasses more than getting frequent exercise. Maintaining healthy relationships, a healthy diet and healthy emotions is fundamental to prosperity at any age.
Personal health is multifaceted and depends on numerous lifestyle factors. To maintain your well-being, consider the following contributors to overall health:
- Mental stress: How are you feeling emotionally? Do you have someone to talk to in times of distress?
- Leisure activities: What are your hobbies or extracurricular interests? Are you actively participating in them?
- Socialization: Do you have close friends or family members to confide in? Do you often feel socially isolated or lonely?
Bottom Line: Low Impact Doesn’t Imply Lack of Results
In the end, your exercise routine is intended to support and enhance your lifestyle. Regular physical activity offers endless benefits, especially for older adults struggling to maintain their health.
The primary goal of a workout is to get your body moving. Life Plan Communities (LPCs), such as those operated by HumanGood, can help you achieve your fitness goals with fun classes, inviting walking trails and a supportive community that can make exercise feel less daunting.
A LPC allows residents to stay active and make a conscious effort toward leading a fulfilling life. By offering the resources necessary for seniors to retain both their independence and peace of mind, a LPC promotes wellness throughout every stage of life.