Some physical activity a day keeps the doctor away… that’s how the saying goes, right?
Well, maybe not exactly.
Undisputedly, though, the benefits of exercise are most certainly plentiful!—especially for adults aged 50 years or older. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), physical activitiy may:
- Help delay, prevent or manage many chronic diseases
- Poentially help decrease the likelihood of falls
- Improve mental health
- Encourage social engagement
- Increase cognitive (brain) function
Can seniors take advantage of the summer months and begin exercising?
Many experts have noted that the summer may actually be best time of the year to exercise due to reasons including:
- Warmer weather
- Longer days
- Sunnier days (…and did you know that this added vitamin D can even help improve moods?)
What are some outdoor excercises for seniors?
The professionals at Unicity Healthcare have outlined the following seven outdoor activities that can help seniors stay active:
- The National Physical Activity Guidelines recommends seniors engaging in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week, which would include “brisk walking.” In other words, this would mean going on a walk that allows you to talk, but not necessarily sing. By going on a walk, you can take this time to explore your community, chat with loved ones (either alongside you on your walk or on your phone while you walk), get your joints moving and get your heartrate pumping.
- Bird watching. If going on a walk sounds a bit too boring, perhaps give yourself a purpose. By partaking in the ‘sport’ of bird watching, your walk now has a goal and a reason to keep going! It can help sharpen your mind, act as a theraupetic activity and even help you build a deeper connection with outdoors.
- Photographing. Maybe birds aren’t your ‘thing,’ but architecure, art, colors, shapes or textures are! Grab your phone or camera, bring it along with you on your walk and give yourself a focus to continue your walk. Before you know it, you’ll have moved those legs and gathered more steps than you could have imagined!
- Gardening. Digging, raking, weeding, mulching, hoeing, sowing, harvesting, watering, mixing and planting can definitely cause you to break a sweat—and also cause you develop a deeper love and appreciation for nature. In addition to the physical benefits, gardening may reduce stress, improve happiness, build strength, encourage you to eat healthier and give you a boost of vitamin D. As stated by Audrey Hepburn, “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.”
- Fruit, vegetable or flower picking. The constant activity of bending down and walking to pick your favorite fruits, vegetables or flowers would not only get you out of that sedentary ‘sitting down’ state, but also give you a reason to get outside. If you don’t have a garden, you can perhaps also turn this into a bonding activity with friends or family and travel to your nearest local farm and explore.
- If you have access to a pool, get your bathing suit ready and jump on in! Swimming is one of the best exercises because it presents little risk of injury and is low impact (think about it this way: the water cushions your body!). Water exercises, such as swimming, aerobic exercises or even dancing, work out all of the muscle groups and give you a complete workout.
- Perhaps walking isn’t your ‘speed,’ quite literally speaking. Find your favorite music genre station, dust off your dancing shoes and have your own little swing! You can even encourage friends or family to join you.
What are some other tips for outdoor exercising?
As for any individual of any age and health background, it’s important to always:
- Stay hydrated
- Protect yourself from the sun with a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen
- Start slowly
- Listen to your body! (Know when it’s time to rest)
Despite all of the health benefits, why are many seniors inactive?
The CDC estimates that 31 million adults over the age of 50 are inactive. Researchers have identified several reasons for inactivity such as:
- Physical limitations (i.e. joint pain)
- Fears (i.e. of being outside alone)
- Environmental barriers (i.e. lack of access to a car)
The team at Unicity Healthcare urges seniors to fight past these barriers, if possible, and engage in healthy, active routines.