By Roz Jones
Seniors have a lot to gain through regular exercise. Staying active can improve your client or loved one’s physical and mental health and extend their ability to live independently. Below are some tips for developing a beneficial exercise program for your client or loved one and sticking to it.
Designing a Safe and Balanced Exercise Program
- Increase endurance. Aerobic exercise like walking or biking is great for your client or loved one’s heart and circulation. Swimming is especially good for seniors because they get a total body workout with low impact and little risk of injuries. Aim for about 30 minutes of moderate activity daily for your client or loved one.
- Build strength. Muscle mass declines with age, but resistance training two to three times weekly can help offset that loss. To be safe, start off with easy exercises and progress by increasing weights and repetitions gradually. You may want to take your client or loved one to visit a local gym or take a class at a senior center.
- If your client or loved one prefers working out at home, you can buy weights or use household items like bags of rice.
- Stay flexible. Stretching will keep your client or loved one limber and help protect them from injury. Have them do it as often as possible – daily is great! Warm-up with some light aerobics and then ease into a stretch gently. Have your client or loved one hold the stretch for about 30 seconds. Repeat each movement a few times, gradually extending your client or loved one’s range.
- It’s good to feel some slight tension, but if your client or loved one experiences any pain, stop and have them withdraw back to a more comfortable position.
- Improve balance. Protect your client or loved one from falls and broken bones by working on their balance. Tai Chi is another low-impact activity ideal for seniors. It promotes balance and strength. Even just having your client or loved one practice standing on one foot can enhance their stability.
Sticking to the Exercise Program
- Set realistic goals. A regular workout routine is safer and more beneficial than scattered efforts. Keep your client or loved one motivated by establishing realistic goals. Find activities that they can easily incorporate into their daily schedule such as cutting back on TV viewing to going for a daily swim. When their favorite program is on, they can even exercise during commercials.
- Have fun. Think about the pastimes your client or loved one loves and expand upon them. When children visit, go for a long walk through the park. If your client or loved one gets tired of using the treadmill alone every day, sign up for a yoga class with a buddy whose company you enjoy.
- Make contingency plans. Life events will sometimes interrupt your client or loved one’s normal schedule. While traveling, look for hotels with fitness centers. If it’s too cold to ride bikes outdoors, browse the public library for exercise videos for seniors.
Other Safety Tips
- Talk with their doctor. If your client or loved one has been sedentary for a while, their doctor can advise them on how to get moving safely. No matter what health issues they may experience, there is usually some form of exercise that they can engage in even if there’s a need to modify the standard positions.
- Learn to breathe. Proper breathing will help your client or loved one maintain good form. Generally, you exhale when you exert effort and inhale when you relax. So have your client or loved one breathe out when they lift something and breathe in when they lower it.
- Drink plenty of water. The body needs water regardless of whether you’re sweating. By the time you’re thirsty, you’ve gone too long without drinking.
- Wear the right shoes. Your client or loved one can exercise without spending a fortune on expensive equipment, but good shoes are worth the cost. Get protective footwear that’s designed for their chosen sport, whether it’s golf or tennis. If tying laces is a struggle, Velcro closures will give your client or loved one a secure fit.
Exercise is a great way for older adults to stay healthy and fit. Follow simple safety precautions so your clients or loved ones can remain active and enjoy the pastimes they love.
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