Innovative Fitness Programs for Seniors
Seniors who exercise gain physical, mental and emotional benefits that they would not get by sitting still. Whether it is gardening, walking or a more intense activity, regular exercise improves seniors’ well-being, especially when they work out with friends or family.
Fitness is not something we should retire from because we reach a certain age. Endurance, muscle strength and flexibility matter throughout our lives. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), seniors who stay active:
- Have more energy
- Improve balance, which lowers risks for falls
- Prevent heart disease, diabetes and other serious health problems
- Sustain joint health
- Reduce their chances for depression
- Remain independent longer because they maintain strength and mobility
Balance Your Exercise Program
Ideally, a senior’s exercise program should incorporate aerobic conditioning, flexibility exercises, strength training and relaxation techniques. Combining these four components helps seniors maximize health benefits and keep their routine interesting.
Here are just a few exercise suggestions from AAOS and NIH:
- Brisk walking
- Climbing stairs
- Tai Chi
- Free weights
- Resistance bands
- Weight machines
Exercise to Stay Fit and Social
A Program Designed for Seniors
With the goal of helping seniors stay physically active and social, Belleville Assisted Living in New Orleans has implemented Live 2B Healthy Senior Fitness, an exercise program designed to help older generations live longer, healthier lives.
Barry Scott, a Live 2B Healthy Regional Owner in Louisiana, describes how seniors, like all of us, need opportunities and encouragement to adopt regular exercise habits. He describes the many benefits of regular exercise for seniors, including:
- Renewed energy and endurance
- Enhanced flexibility and balance
- Decreased joint and back pain
- Better circulation
- Reduced depression and anxiety
- Improved sleep
- Lower blood pressure
- Improved cognitive skills
Live 2B Healthy classes are customized to meet varying mobility levels, and exercises can be modified to accommodate individual needs. Certified trainers ensure safe and proper fitness practices, emphasizing fun and long-lasting health benefits. As Scott describes, “class participants know they will be appropriately challenged by a professional who is committed to their all-around wellness.”
Live 2B Healthy in Practice
Adelle Bergman, an administrator at Belleville, says that Live 2B Healthy fitness classes help residents increase their agility and endurance. And having regularly scheduled classes available provides a social environment for seniors.
“We currently have 25% of Bellevillle’s population attending classes every week. We also have seniors from outside the community who come to class.”
Those regular attendees get to know each other and gain a sense of accomplishment from the classes. “Every three months, they have a personal fitness assessment so they can see how attending class helps them improve their physical abilities.”
What Seniors Like Most About Live 2B Healthy
According to Bergman, the seniors like the challenge exercise classes provide. “Whether they are wheelchair bound or still have ease of mobility, the trainer keeps everybody moving.” Classes incorporate exercise balls, stretch bands and other equipment to meet varying fitness levels.
Scott adds that Belleville highly encourages the Live 2B Healthy program, providing it as an amenity to residents. “That inspires people to join in,” he says. Residents gain physical benefits and enjoy the social interaction with neighbors, which keeps them coming back to class.
Before they start an exercise program, seniors should talk to their doctor, especially if they already have heart problems or other health concerns. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) recommends that seniors take these precautions before exercising:
- Do not exercise when you are sick, but be sure to start up again as soon as you are better.
- Even if you suffer a minor illness, like a cold, start your exercise program over from the beginning. In other words, if you had gone from three short walks a week to five long ones, you need to go back to the short walks to rebuild strength and endurance.
- Avoid the gym at peak hours, particularly during cold and flu season.
- Try to exercise outdoors as much as the weather allows.
Start Slowly to Ensure Benefits
Seniors should start slowly, and follow their doctor’s advice. Expect some soreness and weariness at first, but bear in mind that eventually exercise will make you feel better. With that goal in mind, go at your own pace, and you will see benefits to your body, mind and spirit.
What health benefits have you seen in seniors who exercise? What sort of an exercise program did they follow?
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