Stay Warm by Being Active
We are lucky in Northern California to enjoy relatively mild winters, but it still gets plenty cold with blustering winds and continuous rain.
As we age, our body is less able to retain heat in cold temperatures, aggravating chronic pain like arthritis and worsening cardiovascular conditions. Shorter daylight hours also contribute to seasonal depression, affect sleep schedules, and lead to less motivation to stay active.
Staying active to maintain mobility is essential for seniors. According to the CDC, falls are the leading cause of injury in adults 65+, with 36 million falls happening every year and one in five of those falls leading to hospitalization.
If you or an elder loved one are finding it hard to stay active during the winter months, there are plenty of ways to get some movement in throughout the day. You don’t need to have a personal training session every day to maintain mobility. Even five minute activities spaced throughout the day can improve balance and physical fitness, including for seniors with limited mobility.
Variety is the Spice
To get the most benefit, try to incorporate different types of activity: strength, endurance, balance and flexibility. Adding a variety of exercises to their indoor routine will keep older adults more capable in their everyday activities, improve mood, enhance brain function, help with sleep and maintain overall well-being.
Get Active This Winter
Staying fit doesn’t need to be a chore. Find ways to move a little more during the activities you already enjoy. Try these different ideas for yourself, or a senior loved one:
Make a Game Out of Exercise
- Count your steps walking down the hall, see if it’s the same number to walk back. Try counting to different areas in the house or senior living community; compare numbers with your neighbors.
- Walk with a friend at the same time each day. You’ll get socialization and work on endurance. Try swinging your arms more while you walk to increase cardio. Try this: Walk for 20, stop and do high steps for 10, walk for 20, repeat.
- Listen to music while exercising. It helps make work more fun and can motivate you to push yourself further. Even better, bust a move! You’ll boost cardio, get a laugh in, and friends/neighbors can join in.
There are many ways to move more from the comfort of your home or senior living community:
- Chair exercises
- Yoga or tai chi
- Go up and down stairs
- Find a workout on YouTube or a fitness DVD
- Balance exercises: stand on one foot, heel-toe walk, sit to stand
- Light weight lifting: Weights are not required! Try a full water bottle, heavy books, or doing pushups on the wall.
Whenever the sun shines, or we get a mild day, take the opportunity to stretch your legs and soak up some mood-boosting Vitamin D. Gentle winter outdoor activities include:
- Go birding in a nearby park
- Walk around the neighborhood
- Swim in a heated community pool
- Have visitors, especially grandkids, out in the yard
Seniors with Limited Mobility
Some seniors may be less mobile or in a wheelchair, but there are still ways to stay active:
- Try a seated workout routine
- Use hand weights or grip a tennis ball
- Stretch or use upper body yoga movements
- Do toe taps, knee raises or leg lifts in a chair
- Get your groove on with shoulder shrugs, arm circles and arm-only dance moves
Exercise Your Brain
No matter the weather or your physical capabilities, reading, crossword puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, sudoku, cards, sewing, knitting, playing an instrument, or calling a friend are accessible and can help with cognition, memory and boost mood.
Come springtime, your mind and body will be thankful you kept in shape, and it will be easier to go back to warm weather activities. Short bursts of activity done regularly can improve balance, coordination, strength, mood, and more, helping many older adults to live longer, healthier lives and reduce the risk of falls.
Always talk to your doctor before starting a new exercise routine. Some older adults may not be capable of the activities listed above, so modify as needed, start slow and gradually build up your physical activity. Always bundle up and be conscious of your health or the health of your senior loved one before venturing out in the cold.