With a new year comes new resolutions, and if fitness is on your list, it’s important to set realistic goals — especially if you have arthritis, potential age-related complications or any other factors that might affect mobility.
As one gets older, staying active becomes more important, even if it’s just 30 minutes a day of a low-impact exercise, according to Kaiser Permanente lifestyle educator MariaElena Alberici.
“A good fitness goal for seniors is 20 to 30 minutes of aerobic activity per day,” she said, “and it doesn’t have to be done all at the same time. Research shows that you can still reap the benefits even if you break it up into two, 15-minute periods.”
Low-impact exercises are those that require one to keep one foot on the ground to avoid pressure or pain on the knees or ankles, further alleviating stress or pressure on one’s joints and promote better coordination. Some examples include walking, swimming, bicycling or water aerobics, whereas high-impact activities are those that would require one to run, jump or pound the ground frequently, like jumping rope or long-distance runs.
Here are some low-impact activities to try at home or a park, including some you can follow along virtually as taught by Santa Clarita-based instructors.
Whether you’re dealing with a chronic condition or recovering from an injury or surgery, yoga is a great way to incorporate as a healing method or as a daily activity.
Yoga can help with back pain relief, improve balance and flexibility, reduce body-wide inflammation and help you sleep better at night, according to officials with Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital Fitness and Health.
Johns Hopkins Medicine, which offers on its website several poses and the benefits of each, offers these low-impact poses:
Tree pose: Balance on one foot, while holding the other foot to your calf or above the knee (but never on the knee) at a right angle. Try to focus on one spot in front of you, while you balance for 1 minute.
Downward Dog pose: Get on all fours, then tuck your toes under and bring your sitting bones up, so that you make a triangle shape. Keep a slight bend in your knees, while lengthening your spine and tailbone.
Legs up the Wall pose: Sit with your left side against a wall, then gently turn right and lift your legs up to rest against the wall, keeping your back on the floor and your sitting bones close to the wall. You can remain in this position for 5 to 15 minutes.
If you are limited to work from a chair or with a chair, a 15-minute chair pilates session can help target anything from activating one’s core to flexibility and strength. And the Bella Vida Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center offers weekly, virtual classes to those interested in a quick but effective set of exercises, according to Blyth Birchall, coordinator of daily activities.
“The benefits of chair pilates are endless: improved posture, better flexibility, and increased muscle strength and balance,” reads the senior center class description.
To start, grab a robust chair and place it in a room with ample space around you and remove your shoes and socks. One exercise to try is single-leg calf raises. Simply place both feet flat on the floor and look straight ahead. Next, raise one foot and lift the heel as high as possible using your toes and then lower the heel back. Repeat the process for each side by performing two to three sets of 10 repetitions.
Another exercise is conducting seated shoulder presses. With both feet flat on the ground while sitting in your chair, use a set of lightweight dumbbells at your shoulders with your elbows bent. You’ll then want to extend your elbows by pressing your arms straight up before lowering them back to the starting positions. Repeat the process by performing two to three sets of 10 repetitions.
MariaElena, a certified fitness professional, recommends tai chi for seniors looking for non-impact aerobic exercise.
“The slow movements and deep breathing of tai chi are very beneficial for seniors,” she said. “Research strongly suggests that the practice of tai chi may deliver many health benefits in areas such as mental health, immune system response, and balance and fall prevention.”
“For seniors with frailty or sarcopenia,” she added, “modified tai chi movements can be performed while seated.”
Virtual Tai Chi classes are also a good option for seniors right now due to the stay-at-home orders, she said.
The senior center also offers Tai Chi/Meditation for Good Health classes Tuesdays at 11 a.m. via Zoom. Attendees can participate while seated, standing, or both.
“If practiced, they may ease arthritis aches and improve core strength, as well as increase flexibility and range of motion,” reads the class description. “Your practice may improve physical balance with your body and mental balance with improved attention and memory.”