Retirement communities are finding all sorts of ways to coax residents into the fitness habit by offering activities that deliver significant health benefits along with a whole lot of fun. Drumming is a popular option that provides the therapeutic benefits of vibration and the cognitive benefits of following a beat while also challenging drummers to stretch, twist and lunge as they attempt to reach the drums of their neighbors. Seniors who participate in drumming class also unleash feel-good endorphins and experience cardiovascular benefits.
Dancing is fun and sociable—and for those who can’t stand up, there is chair dancing. In fact, many fitness activities can be enjoyed from a chair or wheelchair, including yoga, bean bags and even aerobics. For those who are mobile, Wii virtual-reality games like bowling and golf are fun for seniors of all skill levels.
Another gentle but extremely beneficial method of exercising is to get into the pool. Water aerobics provide a cardiovascular workout and also work the muscles thanks to the light resistance provided by the water. The result is increased strength, but without the fear of falling or losing balance.
For those who prefer exercising on dry land, Walker Fit programs are a fun workout for seniors who may have assumed regular exercise was beyond their reach. Strolling or rolling outdoors along smooth paths in the fresh air is another activity that many, including those with walkers or in wheelchairs, find exhilarating.
While some seniors worry that engaging in exercise could be harmful, it’s the lack of physical activity that is associated with more doctor and hospital visits. Experts tell us the more movement senior citizens engage in, the better their overall quality of life and the greater the potential benefits, including improved sleep, more energy, better health, improved balance and flexibility, and enhanced mood.
There are good reasons to engage in fun and physical activities no matter what your age. The health benefits of regular exercise include a better lipid profile, lower blood pressure, increased bone density and gastrointestinal functioning. Among the medical conditions improved by exercise are dementia, depression, diabetes and heart disease. Regular exercise—yes, even the fun kind—can speed up the time it takes to heal by 25 percent. And it may also help you shed a few pounds.
The key to any exercise effort is to start slowly, especially if you’ve been sedentary, and to find an activity you enjoy.
That may be why the National Institute on Aging recommends choosing a retirement community, like Monarch Landing, that offers exercise classes, a pool, a fitness center, and walking trails that encourage residents to be active, healthy and to have fun.