Beat the ‘winter blues’ by staying active

Winter weather will likely persist throughout much of Canada for at least two more months, and while that may be welcome news to some, for older adults who love getting outside, the arrival of spring can’t come soon enough. Although low temperatures, snow and ice can make it difficult to spend time outdoors, that doesn’t mean that seniors have no way to stay active as winter pushes through January and into February. Whether they want to exercise their mind, socialize with friends and family or even get in a workout, seniors can certainly stay active in the winter if they make some slight tweaks to their cold weather plans.

Hit the books
There are plenty of opportunities for seniors to give their minds a workout, and often there are classes that cater specifically to individual hobbies and interests. Of course, retirement village residents are not limited to joining a group exploring their already formed hobbies, they can also take classes to pick up a new skill, whether they want to be more up-to-date on technology or uncover the finer points of gardening. Doing so can not only help seniors pass the time during the long winter, but it may also offer considerable health benefits. A study from the University of Texas at Dallas released last year found that seniors who learned a new skill showed improvements to their memory, according to the results published in the journal Psychological Science. 

Indoor exercise
Although there’s nothing quite like getting some exercise outside, when the weather turns rough, seniors have to make do with what’s available under the roof of their retirement living residence. Luckily, just because exercise is indoors doesn’t mean it has to be monotonous, and there are a wide variety of variations on outdoor activities that can help seniors maintain their regimen during the colder months. Many seniors get in the pool once the winter starts, according to Canada’s Physical Activity Guide. Performing aerobics in the water is not only a great indoor activity, but it can help ease pain from arthritis. Additionally, because these exercise sessions are often done in groups, it’s a great way for seniors to socialize.

Keep moving
Not all exercise has to be in a formal setting. Seniors can keep moving during the winter months simply by incorporating some exercise into their daily routines. For instance, pacing around the room when they’re watching TV, rather than simply staying on the couch, can be an effective alternative to walking outdoors on icy sidewalks and paths. Additionally, performing chores around the house can be its own form of exercise. A 2006 study from the U.S. National Institute on Aging found that activities of daily living, whether it’s doing the dishes or laundry, may actually extend seniors’ lifespans.

“Any movement is better than no movement to lower your risk of death,” said research scientist Todd M. Manini.

Volunteer
It’s not unusual for seniors to volunteer throughout the entire year, so they can certainly benefit from donating their time during the winter. Not only does it provide a sense of purpose, something which is especially important due to prevalence of the so-called “winter blues” among the elderly population. Whether seniors choose to volunteer with young children or at a food bank, there are many tangible health benefits, according to the U.S. Corporation for National and Community Service. Some of the most compelling research found that community service was closely tied to greater life satisfaction among retirees.