When you were little, mom and dad likely got some exercise chasing you around. But as seniors get older, it can become harder to get the physical activity they need, which is about 30 minutes a day, five days a week, according to the National Council on Aging.
If you're caring for elderly parents, you should know that regular exercise can help them keep chronic illnesses at bay, including heart disease, diabetes and the general tiredness that comes with aging. The problem is, activities your parents once enjoyed aren't always as easy when they approach their 60s and beyond.
That doesn't mean the exercise has to end as the golden years begin, however; it just means the activities change slightly. Indeed, with a little creativity and thirst for fun, those five-days-a-week exercises aren't so daunting after all.
Keep in mind that they should always consult with their doctors before starting a new exercise regimen.
1. Triple W: Walk With Weights
You may be familiar with the heart-healthy benefits of walking, but why not add a little strength training into the aerobic mix? By curling 1- to 3-pound weights while walking, seniors can build stronger, leaner muscles and protect against muscle loss as they age. Consider joining mom or dad for regular strolls around the neighborhood, passing off the weights among you for a rotating benefit for everyone.
2. Low-Impact Routines
Try something new and encourage parents to join you for low-impact exercises that build the mind, body and balance, which is important for preventing dangerous falls. Even if your parent has never done them before, the stress-busting, blood-pressure-lowering benefits of yoga, Pilates and tai chi make these routines worth exploring. You can join a class or even stream routines from YouTube, like this one.
3. Bust a Move
Take advantage of the heart-pumping benefits of dance for seniors and crank up a few tunes for a living room jam session worth remembering. Or, help mom or dad take a jig down memory lane in a group class that teaches the moves of yesteryear, such as Lindy hop or balboa. Feeling daring? Go virtual and get a gaming console that encourages dance.
By improving flexibility, seniors can make simple daily tasks such as getting ready in the morning or doing housework easier. With their doctor's guidance, try these simple stretches from the National Institute on Aging to get started.
5. Strike Out
Who said workouts had to be all work? Add in some family fun with bowling, which can incorporate aerobic and strength-training fitness into a single outing. Just make sure that your parent picks a weight-appropriate ball that doesn't pose too much strain.
Safety Is Top Priority
Exercise shouldn't stop when a parent reaches their 60s, and the fun shouldn't either. But as bodies age, they require different physical activity. So if you're caring for elderly parents, make sure that they clear any fitness goals with their doctors first. Some seniors might work better with a guided program, so consider these outlined fitness options from the National Council on Aging, too.
Regardless of the exercise, the National Institute on Aging recommends seniors drink plenty of water, run through a full warmup and cool-down for every activity and use stabilizing tools to prevent falls. If they practice fitness safely and keep up with their health screenings (for mom and dad), those five days of exercises will fly, walk or dance by.
Sure beats chasing you around as a kid, doesn't it?