Not everyone can go jogging or attend a swanky gym. And with an ageing population, it’s really important that our seniors get access to some kind of good exercise. The ideal would be town planners who create towns made for walking and cycling (rather than for motor cars). But for many people over a certain age, the only exercise they get is to walk back and forth to a supermarket.
Mindful Movements is a lovely little book by the late Zen monk Thich Nhat Hanh. The 10 gentle exercises were developed to help his students sit in meditation comfortably, and they (and the accompanying DVD) make a nice gentle routine for people who struggle with mobility.
In Florida, fitness experts gave residents of a nursing home a fitness routine over several weeks, involving gentle dumb bells. Some were concerned that the residents would have heart attacks or die. In fact, the opposite happened. Many became a lot better, some even were able to walk without aids or wheelchairs, and a few even went back home to live independently! It’s science: if care homes just have older people sitting around all day without doing any exercise, they will lose muscle and this means they are more prone to break hips etc, if they fall.
It’s not ‘dairy milk’ that builds strong bones (there are many high-calcium plant foods). It’s regular exercises that helps, hence why Asians (who drink little dairy but take more exercise) have little osteoporosis, compared to the UK, Scandinavia and North America. We often hear the caveat of ‘ask your doctor before beginning exercise after 40’. This is a bit daft, considering walking is exercise, and not exercising is not good for anyone. Older people don’t have to start working out with kettle bells or running 10 miles a day. Here are a couple of good gentle books to start off:
Resistance Band Workouts for Seniors shows how to choose and use resistance bands (at home with a door anchor) and how to use them safely. Create your own mini-gym to fit into a small bag. The 50 exercises work all major muscle groups to create a regular practice.
Move or Lose It is a website packed with info on local classes, or you can buy DVDs and resistance bands, along with workouts for chair plans, if needed. The site also sells exercise equipment including simple weights and exercise bands, and a handy ‘cuppa tea towel’ that you can use to work out, while you wait for the kettle to boil.
Accessible Fitness with Chair Yoga
A good book is Chair Yoga, which includes 4 seated routines. This is ideal for people who are unable to move far, and keeps them safe, if at risk from falling.