When the cold, rainy days of winter arrive, and the chill seems to creep into our bones, it can be especially hard for older adults to find the motivation to stay active. We all know that exercise is good for us, but when it’s cold and dreary, the thought of extra physical effort can feel somewhat uninspiring. In this article, you’ll find six senior-friendly, low-impact winter workouts to inspire and renew your love for exercise, even in the chilly weather.
Low-impact exercises are perfect for seniors because they may improve cardiovascular health and flexibility without putting a huge strain on sensitive joints.
Staying active during winter is vitally important for older adults as it may help retain and improve current levels of bone density, muscle mass, and mobility.
Exercises like tai chi, indoor walking, and chair yoga can all be done from the comfort and warmth of home.
Why it’s important to keep moving
During winter, it can be very tempting to stay wrapped up in blankets on the sofa, warm, snuggly, and protected from the encroaching cold weather. However, it’s especially important to make the extra effort to exercise in winter for both the physical aspect and the mental health benefits, too.
- Beat the winter blues. You may have heard of the phrase ‘winter blues,’ which refers to feelings of sadness during the colder months. Making an effort to exercise, even if it’s for a short time each day, can help release endorphins, which are ‘happy hormones,’ and help us feel more balanced emotionally.
- Rise to the challenge. Winter offers extra challenges, such as slippery sidewalks, icy steps, and snow covered ground. Staying active can help build and maintain the strength and balance needed to keep you strong and stable in the face of extra adversity.
- Stay strong and supple. Lack of activity during the winter can increase the risk of muscle atrophy, which is especially worrying for older adults. You need to keep those muscle groups strong and supple to maintain mobility, range of motion, and flexibility.
Benefits of low-impact exercise for seniors
It’s no secret that as we get older, our bodies become less able to cope with the more high-intensity, stressful forms of exercise such as HIIT or trail running. Low-intensity exercise is gentle on the joints and easily adaptable for diverse physical capabilities, all while providing benefits such as:
- Improved cardiovascular health
- Enhanced flexibility
- Reduced risk of injury
- Improved balance
- Increased mobility and range of motion
- Enhanced muscle strength
- Improved endurance
6 low-impact, senior-friendly winter exercise ideas
The cold, wintery weather should never be a hindrance to maintaining a healthy and active life even as we age. Whatever the weather might be doing outside, these six senior-friendly, low-impact exercises can all be performed from the comfort and warmth of your own home.
1. Indoor walking
While a stroll around the block might be inviting during the warmer months, it’s much harder to feel inspired to venture outside when it’s cold, wet, and icy. Indoor walking provides the perfect remedy and can be done at any time of day. Just plan a route around your home, perhaps put on an album you like, and walk around at a pace suited to you.
2. Chair yoga
Chair yoga is a wonderful way to improve and enhance flexibility and range of motion for seniors who might benefit from the support of a chair.
3. Tai chi
Tai chi is a low-impact, all-levels style of martial arts that consists of slow, fluid movements that place very little stress on the body. Performing the movements in tai chi is an exercise for both the body and brain, helping to develop better coordination, balance, and cognitive ability. One study, which followed 60,000 men in Shanghai, showed that those who exercised regularly and practiced tai chi also tended to live longer than those who didn’t, so it’s potentially good for longevity too.
4. Light resistance training
Adding resistance bands, light weights, or performing simple bodyweight exercises can help build up that all-important muscle mass, which can be especially important for seniors. Here are a few low-impact resistance exercises you can add to your fitness routine:
- Basic squats
- Bicep curls with light weights
- Gentle push ups with bent knees or against the wall
- Arm raises with light weights
- Seated resistance band exercises
5. Balance exercises
Seniors are at a much greater risk for falls and injuries related to falls, so developing and maintaining balance is a must for older adults. Balance postures and exercises include standing on one leg with the wall for support, toe stands, and standing leg raises.
6. Gentle dancing
Dancing is a wonderful way to improve fitness and agility and enhance your mood, and it can be as gentle or vigorous as you wish. Simply put on your favorite songs and let the music move your body in a way that feels natural and comfortable. It’s an aerobic form of exercise that offers muscle strengthening, mobility, and mood-enhancing benefits.
Make the most of winter movement
While the chilly weather can definitely put a damper on our spirits, it need not stop us from living life to the fullest, moving freely, and building strength. Staying active as a senior during winter can help maintain and improve balance, coordination, and cognitive ability and ultimately enhance the quality of life.
- American Journal of Epidemiology. Associations with tai chi, walking, and jogging with mortality in Chinese men.
- Journal of Aging and Health. Effect of the exercise dance for seniors (EXDASE) program on lower-body functioning among institutionalized older adults.