Winter activities for seniors

Winter is the time of year when most of us want to stay indoors, but it is important to keep the body and mind sharp by staying active.

Learn more about five activities that you and your senior loved one can safely enjoy together throughout the winter season.

Exercise is important for your health. The National Institute of Aging recommends that you try to include at least 30 minutes of vigorous activity in your routine every day.

You will get the most benefit from your physical activity if you include these types of exercise:

  • Balance
  • Endurance
  • Flexibility
  • Strength

The winter season can make it difficult to keep up with these kinds of activities, however, due to dangerous and unsafe weather.

Fortunately, there are still many enjoyable exercises that will keep you and your senior loved ones active during this time. The top activities for seniors to enjoy during the winter season include:

  • 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.

The Queensland Ballet and the Queensland University of Technology conducted a study looking at the health benefits of seniors who participated in 10 ballet classes. The project discovered that dancing leads to:

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

Even if ballet is not your style, any form of dancing will be beneficial. The greatest benefit is seen when dancing with a group or a partner.

Tips for safety:

Remember to stretch and warm up beforehand. Begin with slow tunes that warm up the muscles. Do not push to the point of pain. Stop if you or your senior loved one become winded. But catch your breath and then go again.

  • Going to the gym

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

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

Tips for safety:

Don’t push yourself just to impress others. Work at a pace and with weights that feel comfortable and ask about what times of day the gym is the quietest if you or a loved one are self-conscious.

  • Indoor yoga

Yoga as a form of exercise is very gentle and low impact that often involves holding a variety of poses or positions while focusing on breathing and relaxation.

Yoga is reported to:

      • Build stronger bones
      • Improve your balance and strength
      • Increase flexibility
      • Lower high blood pressure
      • Maintain a healthy weight
      • Reduce anxiety

Tips for safety:

Pay attention to what the body needs. Start by taking a class with an instructor who is familiar with working with seniors. Remember to ask your instructor how to modify the pose for your or a senior loved one’s physical needs if the post is uncomfortable.

  • Swimming

Swimming is an excellent activity to enjoy all year round. But especially when the weather outside is cold and if you end with a quick dip in the hot tub to ease your joints.

Swimming 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 like to fall than other men.

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

Tips for safety:

Start slowly at first and if you or a senior loved one are unsteady on your feet, have someone accompany you both in the change room and in the water. Ask around for pools that have ramps allowing for wheelchair access if needed. Your senior loved one could benefit from just moving gently or sitting in the warm water.

  • Walking

Walking is the most natural form of exercise and other than a good pair of shoes, no additional equipment is needed. Walking outdoors does provide you with the most benefit, but during the cold and icy months, you may need to look for an indoor spot.

You can walk indoors at:

      • A community center
      • An indoor walking track
      • The mall
      • Your local university (plan to go between class sessions)


Tips for safety:

Try to avoid places that are crowded or have fast moving pedestrians. Wear good, sturdy shoes and always stay in well-lit areas, and/or go with a friend if possible. Let somebody know where you are going and when you plan to be back.

No matter what form of exercise you choose to do with your parent or senior loved one over the winter, remember to:

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

(This article appeared in the Senior Living blog by Crystal Jo on November 28th 2018)

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