Regular exercise is key for anyone wanting to stay healthy, and as people age it becomes even more important to maintaining good health, and preventing accidents and injuries. There is a real need to increase awareness of this, as highlighted by recent US Government research which suggests that only just under a third of adults aged between 65 and 74 are physically active, and for those aged over 75 and over, the figure is not much higher.
Anyone who has ever had a fall, and has either broken something or bruised themselves badly, knows how painful it can be, and how much of a knock-on effect it can have on their ability to do day-to-day tasks. The fear of having a fall or of tripping over something is one that is perhaps more common with seniors, and is borne out by the sheer number of emergency hospital admissions every year. It highlights a really important part of any fitness program, the need to have some element of it that specifically focuses on the issue of balance. This is not to say the people automatically lose their sense of balance as they grow older, but inevitably the effects of ageing mean that people are more vulnerable, and the physical sense of feeling balanced and coordinated takes on a special meaning and importance. Many seniors will either live on their own or need a degree of help in maintaining an independent lifestyle.
Many fitness instructors and fitness programs will have specific exercises that focus exclusively on balance, in the same way that they will have exercises that are designed for strength training. There are numerous exercises that people can do, depending on their circumstances and general level of mobility and fitness. The great thing about very simple balancing exercises is that they can be done using normal household objects such as chairs and tables as props, meaning that the person feels safe and secure when doing the exercise. Activities for seniors need to be adaptable, depending on their individual circumstances. Some people will want to use a personal trainer of some sort to learn the exercises, other people will be happy to learn them on their own.
Balance and Flow
Balancing exercises can be done as simple stand-alone activities, or done as part of a more specific fitness program that can include strength training exercises, or can be done in the context of other types of exercise such as Yoga or Pilates. Tai Chi is often specifically recommended as a form of exercise because of how it helps to promote balance in the body. Tai Chi has many forms and again can be practised either in a class with other people, or learned at home using a DVD or online video. The movements in Tai Chi are very gentle, very easy to learn and go through a number of stages to help coordinate all areas of body and mind, which result in an overall sense of integration and balance, which can be incredibly powerful.
Make Exercise Fun
Many balancing exercises can be quite repetitive, and finding the motivation to do them regularly can often be quite tricky. Having a personal trainer can help this focus, but there are other ways as well. Doing any type of balancing exercise within a group or with other people can also help generate motivation or commitment to keep doing them. Another very popular way is to include children or ideally grandchildren in the exercises and turn it into a game. Children learn things by repetition and this can be very beneficial for them as well. This is also very powerful from a bonding point of view, which increases the sense of commitment by the senior, and often leads to other games and activities which can have a similar effect. Kids love to play and often see doing these exercises as a way of playing with their parent or grandparent.
Anyone who has specific mobility or disability issues obviously has to take great care before undertaking any type of exercise regime. At the same time, often the motivation to do some type of physical exercise is greater in someone who has limited mobility for the simple reason that they know what a huge difference it can make. The old saying about healthy body, healthy mind is probably true in a general sense for people of most ages, but for people who are seniors and who struggle with their health in any way, the need to improve their level of fitness and balance can often take on a greater sense of urgency, as it has a knock on effect on their emotional and mental well being.