Exercise is important for all people, including the elderly. Yet seniors who have limited mobility, or are confined to a wheelchair, may think they couldn’t possibly exercise. However, there are many things such individuals can do to stay in shape – all while sitting down.
Doctors recommend at least 30 minutes of daily exercise for most people. Exercise is beneficial for seniors because it keeps muscles from atrophying, improves mental alertness, strengthens bones and leads to a healthier metabolism, among other things.
For seniors who think they won’t be able to handle traditional exercise, chair exercises or modified pilates can be effective, even for those with trouble walking or standing for extended periods of time.
To get started, all one needs is some loose-fitting clothing and a chair. Begin by doing some stretching movements of the neck, arms and legs. Rotate the head left and right and in circles to stretch the neck and back muscles. Lift arms over the head and slowly drop down to the sides of the body to stretch arms and back muscles. Lift and lower the legs a few times to warm them up.
To begin exercises, start slowly and gradually build up repetitions. Exercises to try include boxing or punching into the air, arm circles and arm curls. For the legs, work the back and front of the legs. Kick the legs out in front of the body several times. Hold legs parallel to the floor (as much as possible) and do leg crosses. Put feet flat on the floor and lift up the heels. Keep feet on the floor and push down to work the buttocks and the top of the thighs.
Individuals who have mastered these exercises and have been told by a doctor that it is OK to do something a bit more strenuous may want to add very light weights to the equation for more resistance.
Those looking to change things up can think about doing yoga in a chair or even tai chi exercises. Deep breathing and meditation after workouts can be part of a cool down and stress-relief program.
If swimming is possible, or even simply entering a pool, water provides gentle resistance and could be a good way to work the body in a gradual manner. Buoyancy from the water will be easy on joints and this type of exercise is very low-impact.