By Bill Gelfeld, President, Comfort Home Care
As we age, our bodies begin to break down. It’s a fact of life. But what we have found is a select group of seniors remaining increasingly mobile farther into their later years. How does this happen? Are they just lucky? Well, not exactly. These activities for elderly people can prevent ill health and injuries.
Sure some of these elderly men and women may have been blessed with good health, but almost all of them have one thing in common: they stay active. The bottom line is continued movement is the key to mobility. It may sound like an obvious statement, but the truth is that failing to stay active as you age will undoubtedly decrease your ability to get around in your later years. It will also increase the likelihood of health problems ranging from heart troubles to arthritis to depression.
What You Can Do About It Now
It is never too late to begin exercising, period. Now, we are not necessarily talking about hitting the weight room at the local gym here. Your body will become increasingly delicate, and you need to treat it as such.
Experts across the board agree that there are 4 categories of exercises that all seniors need in order to experience optimal health and mobility. These include:
Balance—As you get older, falling does not mean what it used to. At one time, you could take a spill, stand up, wipe off the dirt, and move along. But as a senior, one wrong fall could mean never walking again. To combat the odds of taking a tumble, you need to work on your balance. One example is the single leg stand. This is an excellent starting point as it is safe and pretty easy. All you do is stand on one leg while holding onto a stable surface for support. The goal is to remain as still as possible, placing your center of gravity over your ankles.
Flexibility—Flexibility has a direct link with mobility. The better you stretch your muscles, the easier you can use them to move your limbs. A particular troublesome area is the back, as many people suffer from stiff backs in their old age. Try this easy back stretch. Stand up with your feet shoulder width apart and place your hands on your hips with your palms on your bottom. Inhale through your nose then arch your spine backward. Hold for ten seconds. Breathe regularly as you hold the position. Don’t extend your head backward excessively. Lift your ribs and bring your shoulder blades together as you extend your back. Perform ten repetitions. Another area where you can receive benefit is stretching the hips and legs. Sit up straight in a kitchen chair and place your hands on either side of the chair for support. Slowly raise your right hip and leg off the chair (knee bent at ninety degrees). Hold this for ten seconds, continue breathing, and lower. Now do the left hip. Repeat ten times.
Strength—Strengthening your muscles will help relieve aches and pains. And it does not have to mean pumping iron as if you were 18 years old again. As you may have noticed in the previous examples, very little goes a long way. For example, try this easy sitting shoulder exercise. Sit up straight in a chair of your choice with feet shoulder width apart, flat on the floor. Beginning with arms hanging to your sides, slowly raise them to shoulder height and hold for 1-2 seconds. Now lower them slowly. Perform 10-15 repetitions.
Cardiovascular—Cardiovascular exercises help build endurance, which leads to a healthy heart. The good thing about cardio is you can get it by doing just about anything that involves movement. It could be walking your dog, mowing the grass with a push mower, going for a swim…you name it! Just find what you like and stick to it.
Remember to warm up before exercising. Take a walk for a few minutes to get your blood flowing. Remember to breathe throughout exercise. Exercise should not hurt. If you experience pain stop what you are doing and consult your doctor.
Mix up these four areas. You could do balance and stretching for ten minutes every morning. Do strength three days per week, maybe Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Then do cardio work on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. This way you are doing something every day and it helps keep a routine.
If you want to feel young again, the number one way to do so is by exercising. Remember, beginning an exercise program should not require a drastic change. Start slow in all areas and work your way up. Do not overdo it.
Disclaimer: Before beginning any sort of exercise program, please consult your doctor.