6 indoor exercises to keep seniors fit

Excerpt: Staying physically active helps seniors keep physically, mentally and emotionally fit, and maintain their independence longer. It’s also important for older adults to do a range of indoor exercises that improve endurance, strength, balance and flexibility. Yoga, tai chi, brisk walking, resistance exercises, aquatics and dancing are low-impact and enjoyable activities that can boost the health and fitness of older adults in multiple ways.

Staying physically active helps seniors keep physically, mentally and emotionally fit, and enjoy a good quality of life,* according to Harvard Medical School. People with higher activity levels not only feel younger, they also have a biological age that is about nine years younger than those who are sedentary,* reported a Brigham Young University study that compared their DNA samples.

Doing 30 minutes of an activity you enjoy daily, in sessions of 10 minutes or more, improves balance, reduces falls and injuries, and helps you stay independent longer,* advises Government of Canada public health services.

Research shows it’s also important for older adults to do a range of activities with different benefits,* says the National Institute on Aging. These include four types of exercise: endurance, strength, balance and flexibility.*

The wide variety of exercise programs offered online amid the COVID-19 pandemic give seniors access to additional resources to help stay fit and active indoors. As we move into cooler fall weather, here are some easy, health-enhancing exercises for older adults to do indoors while taking the appropriate physical distancing and other COVID-19 safety precautions:

  1. Stretch your body with yoga postures
    Yoga includes meditation and exercises that improve your flexibility and relax your muscles, while also focusing your mind, calming stress and reducing fatigue,* suggests HealthLink BC.

  2. Bolster balance with tai chi
    Regular practice of the slow, gentle movements of tai chi improves balance and stability, and reduces falls by 50%,* according to a Journal of the American Geriatric Society study. Tai chi offers the added benefits of increasing muscle strength and flexibility,* says HealthLink BC.

  3. Build endurance by walking briskly
    Walking is a low-impact, aerobic exercise that builds endurance and protects against heart disease, dementia, peripheral artery disease, obesity, diabetes, depression and colon cancer,* reports Harvard Medical School. Walking regularly along hallways, up and down stairs, in malls or whatever indoor space is available helps keep you healthy and mobile.

  4. Strengthen muscles with resistance bands
    Because muscle strength decreases with aging, it’s important to do regular strength or resistance training exercise to help build and maintain muscle,* according to McMaster University. Elastic resistance bands are inexpensive, portable and can be used for a wide variety of muscle strengthening exercises for people of all fitness levels.

  5. Splash to be fit in multiple ways
    Aquatic exercises such as swimming, water-based resistance training and water aerobics offer low-impact workouts that are gentle on joints, bones and muscles,* says McMaster. Physical distancing, enhanced cleaning and other COVID-19 precautions are essential to do aquatics safely in indoor pools.

  6. Dance for fun and fitness
    Dancing can significantly improve older adults’ aerobic power, their lower body muscle endurance, balance, agility, and gait,* reported a Journal of Aging and Physical Activity study.

*The following sources are references for this in order of appearance:

1. Harvard Medical School. “More evidence that exercise helps keep your brain fit.” (2017), online: read://https_www.health.harvard.edu/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.health.harvard.edu%2Fblog%2Fevidence-exercise-helps-keep-brain-fit-2017071011997%23%3A~%3Atext%3DMounting%2520evidence%2520also%2520suggests%2520that%2520exercise%2520can%2520boost%2Cmore%2520oxygen%2520and%2520nutrients%2520in%252C%2520and%2520toxins%2520out.

2. AARP. “To live longer, exercise daily.” (2019), online: “https://www.aarp.org/health/healthy-living/info-2019/exercise-longevity-wellness-benefits.html

3. Government of Canada. “Physical activity tips for older adults (65 years and older).” (2019), online: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/healthy-living/physical-activity-tips-older-adults-65-years-older.html

4. National Institute on Aging. “Four types of exercise can improve your health and physical ability.” ( 2020), online: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/four-types-exercise-can-improve-your-health-and-physical-ability#:~:text=Research%20has%20shown%20that%20it%E2%80%99s%20important%20to%20get,variety%20helps%20reduce%20boredom%20and%20risk%20of%20injury.

5. HealthLink BC. “Yoga.” (2018), online: https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/health-topics/aa106305spec

6. Healthline. “How seniors can improve balance and stability with Tai Chi.” (2020), online: https://www.healthline.com/health/senior-health/ta-chi

7. HealthLink BC. “Older adults and endurance fitness.” (2017), online: https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/physical-activity/older-adults-endurance-fitness

8. Harvard Medical School. “Walking: Your steps to health.” (2020), online: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/walking-your-steps-to-health

9. McMaster University. “Strengthen your muscles with elastic resistance bands.” (2015), online: https://www.mcmasteroptimalaging.org/blog/detail/blog/2015/07/29/strengthen-your-muscles-with-elastic-resistance-bands

10. McMaster University. “Why aquatic exercise is making a splash with health conscious adults.” (2017), online: https://www.mcmasteroptimalaging.org/blog/detail/blog/2017/01/31/why-aquatic-exercise-is-making-a-splash-with-health-conscious-adults

11. Journal of Aging and Physical Activity. “Physical benefits of dancing for healthy older adults: a review.” (2009), online: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19940326/