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August 12th, 2017

Low-Impact Exercises

By Chris Teague

As our bodies age, exercising can become difficult and even painful in some circumstances. Many people find that their overall ability to move around begins to decrease and that their level of flexibility and range of motion goes with it. All of this can be very frustrating for aging individuals, because one of the most prescribed treatments for a wide variety of ailments is exercise. Generally, the more we move, the better we feel. Thankfully, there are a large group of exercises that do not exert the same pressures on our bodies that traditional sports and activities do, and some can even be done while seated. Here are five low-impact exercises.

Walking

For people that are able to, walking is one of the best low-impact exercises around. Going for a walk requires very little (or no) planning, almost no equipment, and can get you out to see the world around your community. Walking has been shown to be gentle on joints and can be a great stress reliever. Both before and after hitting the streets, you will want to do a few stretches and make sure that your muscles have adequate time to warm up and cool down. A well-fitting pair of sneakers and comfortable socks are also vital, and are really the only equipment that is a must-have.

Swimming

This one is about as low-impact as it gets. Swimming is a stress-reliever, helps relax bones and joints, and has a much lower rate of injury that other endurance/cardio-type exercises. Moving through the water also helps condition the entire body, as many large muscles have to work in harmony to propel a swimmer. It’s important to maintain hydration while you’re swimming, as it can be easy to forget how much water loss your body can experience while in a pool. Many YMCAs and community centers offer free or reduced rates for seniors to go swimming, so be sure to check for pools in your area.

Yoga

Yoga is not just a new-age exercise for very flexible people. In fact, those people likely became flexible because they do yoga. The level of skill and experience required to perform some of the poses is out of reach for most people, but there are yoga programs that fit any ability level. Even basic yoga programs combine stretching, strength training, and balance, and can be a great way to build cardio endurance. Many gyms offer yoga classes and there are a growing number of programs geared specifically toward seniors. Some classes can be very expensive, so do your research to find an affordable alternative before opting for home-based DVD or tv programs. These can be very harmful to your body if you perform the poses without proper supervision.

Golf

The world’s most frustrating sport is also a great way to get outside and get moving. A person can end up walking a few miles during the average golf game, and the level of focus and coordination required help maintain brain and fine muscle activity. Swinging the club has been shown to help improve range of motion and balance. It can be tempting to hit the course for a full 18 holes, but be sure to start at a level that you are comfortable with and build up to a full game over time.

Chair Workouts

These exercises can refer to anything that is done while seated, and can also include weight programs and stretches. For people that have balance and mobility issues, seated exercises are a low-impact, high-benefit way to increase heart rate and improve muscle movement. There are too many chair workout programs to count, but look for one that includes movement from both the upper and lower body and one that includes stretches and warmup/cool down periods.

You don’t have to be a marathon runner or weightlifter to stay in shape as you age. There are many more low-impact exercises than are listed here, so there is a program that will work for almost everyone. Consult your doctor before beginning any exercise program, and be sure that you have someone available in case of emergency.