I recently talked to Rush Generations, a newsletter for older adults in the Rush community, about ways to exercise at home without a gym membership or special equipment. The resulting article lists some great ways to get good exercise with supplies you have around your home –- or with no supplies at all.
Sometimes, though, getting out of the house or using simple, inexpensive equipment can add fun and variety to your exercise routine. As many of us embark on New Year’s resolutions to form healthier habits, I thought it might be a good time to share some suggestions about these kinds of activities, too.
Older adults should always consult a physician before beginning any new activity and should tailor any exercise program to their specific needs. (Exercise I might recommend for someone without arthritis, for example, might inflame the joints of someone who does have that condition.) That said, the following activities can be good places to start for many older adults:
Tai chi — a system of gentle exercise and stretching that originated in ancient China — can be an excellent option for almost anyone who has an intact musculoskeletal system. Instructional videos can help you get started, as can group classes, which are generally offered at gyms, community centers and martial arts centers.
Swimming is great, if you can get into it. The water, with its buoyancy, eliminates stress on your joints, so for people with rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis, swimming can be an excellent form of exercise that addresses the heart and lungs. If you do laps, it’s a wonderful aerobic workout.
On-demand television channels offer a wide variety of exercise programs tailored to all sorts of goals and levels of ability. These can be great options in the cold winter months when going outside doesn’t seem very appealing.
Riding a stationary bicycle, another indoor activity you can do regardless of weather, can provide an excellent aerobic workout without putting too much stress on your joints. If you don’t have one at home, you can usually find them at a local gym or YMCA.
Walking allows you to stay close to home (by marching in place or simply strolling around the block) or to get out and about (by going wherever you’d like). If you’re a brisk walker, that’s probably the cheapest, easiest way to get an aerobic workout. Just make sure you have good footwear.
Whatever you choose to do, one of the best ways to make it more appealing is to do it with a friend or companion, if you can. You’ll probably be much more inclined to stay motivated and stick with the program if you do it with someone else who is committed to doing it as well.
Diane Genaze, PT, is director of physical therapy at Rush University Medical Center.