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6 Winter Activities for Seniors

By Rachel DupontMarch 2, 2022
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Winter hobbies for the elderly are typically focused on sharpening the mind. While exercising the mind comes first, it’s also important to incorporate movement into your elderly loved one’s routine. The winter season can make it difficult to keep up with a physical activity routine due to unpleasant weather. Nevertheless, physical activity is vital to health.

The National Institute on Aging recommends that seniors try to include at least 30 minutes of vigorous activity in their daily routines. Exercise is just as beneficial to the mind as it is to the body. Through movement, blood flow increases and oxygenates the body, leading to more sustained mental energy throughout the day. Increased blood flow also helps regulate the body’s hormones, leading to a reduction of cortisol — a major stress hormone. Movement also supports the body’s nervous system and can help relieve tension and reduce anxiety with regular practice. The benefits of a regular movement activity regimen go on and on.

The most beneficial hobbies for the elderly help support the following:

  • Balance
  • Endurance
  • Flexibility
  • Strength
  • Deep breathing

When it comes to fun active winter games for seniors, there are plenty of ways to add full-body movement to boost mood and promote overall health. Check out the following six fun winter activities for seniors that will help them get their daily dose of movement.

1. Dancing

Dancing has been shown to be one of the most powerful forms of exercise for keeping both the body and brain healthy. All you need is a clear spot on the floor and some music.

Music itself has many benefits, and it has been known to lower agitation and boost mood for seniors experiencing dementia. Whether or not your loved one needs extra cognitive support, they can still benefit from the therapeutic effects of music.

The Queensland Ballet and the Queensland University of Technology conducted a study looking at the health benefits of ballet for seniors. The project reported that dancing leads to:

  • A sense of achievement
  • A sense of community and friendship
  • Greater flexibility
  • Higher energy levels
  • Improved posture
  • Increased happiness

If ballet is not your style, any form of dancing is beneficial. The greatest benefit is found when dancing with a group or a partner. Interacting with others helps promote connection while keeping you engaged, boosting your confidence, and strengthening your social skills.

Not able to get out of the house or make it to a dance class? Try putting on a favorite musical and dancing along to the numbers, instead. Dance to your favorite album, play the video game Just Dance, or follow along with a video dance class on YouTube.

Tips:

Remember to stretch and warm up beforehand. Begin with slow tunes to help loosen the muscles, and do not push yourself to the point of pain. If you or your senior loved one becomes winded, pause and catch your breath until you’re ready to start dancing again.

2. Singing

Singing can be a great activity for those who are less mobile. Singing is one of several ways to stimulate the vagus nerve, which maintains the functions of major internal organs. Stimulation of the vagus nerve can reduce stress, increase blood flow throughout the body, lower blood pressure, and put your parasympathetic nervous system — also known as the “rest and digest” system — in control. All of these effects result in better sleep and digestion. Many senior living communities even include karaoke nights among their scheduled activities.

You don’t have to be classically trained to enjoy the benefits of singing. If you’re already watching a musical or listening to an album, sing along. You can also sing familiar hymns, holiday carols, or nursery rhymes. No matter what you’re singing, it will have the same benefits, help control your breath, and relax the body. It’s never too late to discover your signature cover tune.

Tips:

Singing and dancing at the same time can make you run out of breath too quickly. Try starting with one activity at a time, and see how you feel. As always, don’t forget to hydrate.

3. Going to the gym

A gym pass is not just for muscle-bound 20-year-olds. People from all walks of life take advantage of the latest exercise equipment available at your local gym.

Call around or ask your friends which gyms will accommodate you or your senior loved one’s physical needs. Many gyms will offer an introductory session with a fitness expert who will show you how to safely use the equipment.

If you’d prefer to work out at home, there are options that don’t involve state-of-the-art equipment. You can buy a sturdy exercise ball to strengthen your core and a few weights — 5-pound weights are a good place to start — to strengthen your muscles with light weight lifting.

Tips:

Don’t push yourself to impress others. Work at a pace and with weights that feel comfortable, and if you or a loved one feel self-conscious, ask about what time of day the gym is the quietest. When working out in a home gym, be sure to have a friend or loved one present so they can help spot you and ensure your safety.

4. Yoga

Seniors can enjoy many health benefits by practicing yoga regularly. Yoga is a gentle, low-impact exercise that often involves holding a variety of poses or positions while focusing on breathing and relaxation.

Yoga is reported to:

  • Promote bone strength
  • Improve balance
  • Increase flexibility
  • Lower high blood pressure
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Reduce anxiety

Choose yoga movements based on what you or your elderly loved one needs. Stretching relaxes stiff muscles, increases range of motion in the joints, promotes circulation, and reduces stress. Twisting the body, on the other hand, can improve digestion, facilitate spinal rotation, and help relieve back pain. Yoga inversion, such as in a downward-facing dog, forward fold pose, or the low-impact child’s pose, can help drain lymph nodes, improve blood circulation, and boost mood.

With any yoga position, make sure that you start with the beginner modifications and slow and gentle movements. There are plenty of yoga activities for seniors, including chair yoga, which is a great introduction.

Tips:

Pay attention to what the body needs. Start by taking a class with an instructor who has worked with seniors in the past, and remember to ask how you or your senior loved one should modify the pose if it proves to be too difficult or uncomfortable.

5. Swimming and aquatic exercises

Swimming is an excellent activity for seniors to enjoy year round, because it helps improve balance, endurance, flexibility, and strength. A study in Australia found that men over the age of 70 who swam regularly were 33% less likely to fall than other men.

Even if you’re not a strong swimmer, a dip in the pool can have great benefits for your body. The water’s natural resistance helps to strengthen muscles, and aquatic activities can help reduce swelling, improve circulation, and relieve pressure on weight-bearing joints.

Plan ahead to get the most out of a trip to the pool. If your senior loved one is not a confident swimmer, call around to see which pools offer senior exercise classes that require no prior experience.

Incorporating a game can help encourage movement if your loved one isn’t quite up for swimming laps. Try bringing a beach ball, so you can play a low-impact game of catch in the pool. Water walking and water aerobics are other great options that don’t involve any prior swimming experience.

Benefits are gained by slowly moving across the pool or just wading in the water. End your workout by taking a quick dip in the hot tub as a great way to treat yourself and ease your joints.

Tips:

Start slow. If you or a senior loved one are unsteady on your feet, ask someone to accompany you in the changing room and in the water. Wearing water shoes can help those with balance issues have better traction on slippery floors and pool bottoms. Ask around to find pools with ramps allowing for wheelchair access if needed.

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6. Walking

Walking is the most natural form of exercise, and all you need is a good pair of shoes. Walking outdoors provides the most benefit, but during the cold and icy months, you may need to look for an indoor spot.

Check out the following places in your area where you can walk indoors:

  • A community center
  • The library
  • An indoor walking track
  • The mall
  • Your local university

If you’re near a botanical greenhouse, you can get some walking time in while also enjoying the warm air and beautiful greenery. Visiting a museum is another great activity for senior citizens in the winter time — not only can you get some light walking in, but you can also keep your mind and imagination stimulated by the surrounding art or other attractions. If you’d prefer to walk with others, try finding a local walking club, which also supports healthy socialization.

Tips:

Try to avoid places that are crowded or have fast-moving pedestrians. If you choose to walk at your local university, be sure to go between class sessions or during the weekends to avoid heavy foot traffic. Wear durable shoes, stay in well-lit areas, and go with a friend if possible. Always let somebody know where you are going and when you plan to be back.

No matter what senior-friendly activities you choose to do with your parent or elderly loved one, remember to take note of the following:

  • Exercise with a friend
  • Have fun
  • Respect your limits
  • Stay hydrated

Sources:

Bancos, I. (2022, January 23). Adrenal hormones. Endocrine Society.

Dorfner, M. (2015, July 7). Aquatic exercise: Gentle on your bones, joints and musclesMayo Clinic News Network.

Fallis, J. (2017, January 21). How to stimulate your vagus nerve for better mental healthUniversity of Ottawa.

Health Journal. (2016, February 1). The benefits of yoga for seniors.

National Institute on Aging. (2021, January 29). Four types of exercise can improve your health and physical ability

Queensland Ballet. Ballet for seniors

Rowan, K. (2014, October 17). Why swimming may be the best exercise for older adults. Live Science.

Author
Rachel Dupont

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