6 Senior-Friendly, Low-Impact Winter Workouts

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.

Key takeaways:

Why it’s important to keep moving

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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

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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.

Tip
Place different objects around the home, such as a hairbrush in the kitchen or your toothbrush in the living room. Make your indoor walking focus around getting all the objects back to their rightful places.

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.

Tip
Make sure to coordinate your breath and movement to get the greatest benefits from this low-impact movement practice.

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.

Tip
Tai chi is often practiced in groups inside during the winter and outside during the warmer months, so think about finding a local tai chi class for the social aspect 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:

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  • 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
Tip
Make sure you start with the lightest weights and resistance bands to limit the risk of injury as you build up strength and endurance.

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.

Tip
When practicing standing on one leg, use the wall for support at first and gradually lift your supporting hand away for longer periods of time as your balance improves.

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.

Invite others
If you feel like making it a group activity, invite caregivers, family, friends, and even grandkids to join in with the dancing fun.

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.

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