Hate the Gym? Here Are 9 Fun Exercise Options for Seniors
I don’t have to convince you that exercise is a necessary component of healthy aging. It can lower blood pressure, improve cardio health, lower your risk of certain cancers and arthritis, prevent osteoporosis and improve your energy, sleep and metabolism. I think of it as a celebration of what our bodies can still do!
When I was growing up, my mother had the attitude that the only reason to exercise was to help you lose weight. She rarely exercised and had a heart attack at age 63.
No Excuses to Healthy Exercise
As a weight loss coach for foodies, I encourage my clients to set a minimum baseline for exercise for health reasons more than for weight loss.
I have them commit to a no-excuses level of exercise each week. For those new to exercise, that may be just five minutes a day, three days a week. I mean, who can’t do that?
So many of my clients tell me they don’t want to set foot in a gym. They’re intimidated by the machines or the big hulky guys or feel self-conscious comparing themselves to the young perky women in their midriff-baring workout clothes.
Other just don’t like working out with a lot of other people around. Some don’t live near a gym or membership isn’t in the budget.
In any event, I encourage you to take the same approach to exercise as the six-year-olds whose parents bring them to my gym. They’re excited to run around and try everything. They don’t care whether they can do these things well, they just love moving their bodies.
Explore some of the fun activities listed below. Don’t be self-conscious and don’t be afraid to look like a beginner. Be excited to try new things regardless of the stage you’re at. There are so many fun options to keep you moving.
A Few Things to Keep in Mind About Exercise After 50
A balanced exercise plan includes several elements, although you don’t need each one in everything you do.
It’s best to have a mix of these three elements among your exercise choices: (a) cardiovascular exercise; (b) strength-building (to avoid bone and muscle loss); and (c) stretching and flexibility. If you’re new to exercise, it is a good idea to check with your doctor before starting.
Also, you’re more likely to exercise if you schedule a specific time for it.
When the Gym Is Not an Option
Here are some great alternatives to going to the gym, and many of them are free.
I put Tai Chi first because the benefits for seniors have been in the news a lot lately. Tai Chi is effective at increasing muscle strength while making arteries more flexible. It also offers the advantage of being considered the best exercise for improving balance and reducing falls in older people.
Studies have shown that practicing Tai Chi improves symptoms of people with arthritis and Parkinson’s disease. It’s also meditative, so it works at calming the nervous system.
Although it’s great to learn in a live class, there are videos available to purchase and courses available online through Udemy and YouTube.
Closely related to Tai Chi, Qigong involves fairly simple coordinated flowing movements to cultivate and balance energy. It’s excellent for improving balance and coordination and helps bring about a calm, meditative state of mind.
If you can’t find a class in your area or prefer to practice on your own, there are videos to purchase from SoundsTrue.com and other sources. There are also some excellent beginner videos streaming for free on YouTube. Some of my favorites are Yoqi and Mimi Kuo Deemer.
Lee Holden also offers an inexpensive 7-minute-a-day 30-day qigong challenge that you can access HERE.
I’ve been practicing yoga for, dare I say, 47 years! At age 63, I can still do splits, backbends and handstands, and I credit yoga for my great flexibility. But you can practice yoga without doing any of those things and still get amazing benefits.
Yoga not only increases flexibility, but you will become stronger and more relaxed. Sixty and Me offers wonderful beginner yoga programs online that you can do in the privacy of your home.
If you’re more advanced, there are many videos available to purchase or to stream online. My favorite is a British website called Movement for Modern Life which also offers some qigong videos.
There is also an assortment of yoga videos available for purchase or streaming on Amazon Prime. If you want something a little more dynamic, give Kundalini yoga a try.
An obvious choice for many people is walking. I love putting on my trainers, heading out the door and walking in the many beautiful spots in my town on the coast of Maine, USA.
Walking allows me to move my body while I clear my head. If you need motivation and like company when you walk, plan to walk with a friend or join a local walking group.
Were you good at the hula hoop when you were a kid, back when you didn’t think of it as exercise? Well, the hula hoop is a great workout, although it may be harder than you think! And you only need one inexpensive piece of equipment to do it. It’s a great choice to whittle your middle.
Having developed some ankle arthritis, I invested in a new bike last year. Bicycling is a great low impact aerobic workout that you can do almost anywhere. Although it can be dangerous in some cities, most have bike paths where you can ride safely.
Workout and Dance Videos
I own a number of workout videos that I turn to when bad weather makes outdoor activities not very inviting. I also subscribe to Acacia TV, which is inexpensive but provides lots of variety with well-known instructors, and videos are searchable by exercise type, length of workout, fitness level, etc.
I love the dance videos, and Acacia has Latin salsa, Hip-Hop, Bollywood and lots of other dance styles to choose from. There are also many free exercise videos online, including on YouTube. There is sure to be something that fits your style and fitness level.
If you love to dance like I do, Nia is a wonderful low-impact workout that combines dance, martial arts and mindfulness into one movement experience. Check NiaNow.com to see if there are classes in your area.
Snowshoeing and Nordic (Cross-Country) Skiing
If you live in a climate that gets lots of snow, like I do, there’s nothing like strapping on a pair of snowshoes or cross-country skis and heading out into the quiet of new fallen snow.
Granted, this option is only available part of the year, but both snow shoeing and Nordic skiing offer great aerobic conditioning and burn a lot of calories while getting you outside for some fresh air and sometimes even sunshine!
What fun exercise have you tried? What was your experience with it? Please share in the comments below, and let’s all get moving!