You’re never too old to exercise. Being physically active is one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself. Even the act of participating in physical activity, beyond the myriad health benefits we reap from it, is one of the biggest immediate boosts to our emotional health and well-being.
Studies have proven that older adults have plenty to gain from staying physically active, and even moderate exercise can go a long way in preventing or slowing down the diseases that accompany aging. Being strong and fit through activities, such as yoga, help us maintain an independent lifestyle. And allow us to continue doing the activities we love.
It’s suggested that older adults get at least a couple of hours of exercise a week. Here are some of Atlanta’s best fitness activities for seniors.
Tai Chi and Qi Gong
You’ve probably spotted groups of people in the park practicing these ancient forms of exercise that are both relaxing and low-impact, combining movement, breathing, and meditation.
Health benefits associated with the two activities include: relieving the physical effects of stress, promoting deep breathing, reducing bone loss, improving body strength, easing arthritis pain, reducing blood pressure, enhancing mental capacity and concentration and speeding up recovery from strokes and heart attacks. It can also ease the effects of Alzheimer’s, Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s.
Classes are available in both Tai Chi and Qi Gong around Atlanta, including Shoulders Down, Inc. Rising Phoenix Tai Chi offers a course specifically designed for seniors called Seniors Tai Chi Movement Improvement. Classes are held in several locations throughout the city.
Weight and Strength Training
Studies have shown that even moderate strength training done on a regular basis builds up muscle and bone mass in seniors. This is crucial in counteracting the frailty that comes with aging. Exercising your muscles increases muscle strength and endurance, helping with balance and decreasing the risk of falling.
Specifically, strength training can ease the effects of osteoporosis, arthritis, balance, pulmonary disease, obesity, Type II diabetes and back problems. Strength training programs designed for seniors are available throughout the city. Senior Fit Atlanta offers both at-home and in-facility personal training and group programs.
Whether it’s Zumba, salsa or ballroom, dance classes are all the rage for dance and exercise enthusiasts of any age. The health benefits of dancing, such as weight loss and cardiovascular improvement, are well-documented, but more recent studies have shown other health benefits, including stress reduction and increased serotonin level, which improves our sense of well-being.
The wellness benefits of dancing range from stress relief to overcoming shyness and meeting new people, to improving a relationship with your dance partner, acquiring more grace and poise, improving balance and flexibility, and weight loss. One study of seniors even found that frequent dancing can offer protection against dementia.
There are dance classes dotted throughout the city at both dance studios and fitness centers. Gwinnett Senior Recreation holds classes in line dancing, tap dancing and clogging for adults 50 and over.
Seniors sometimes have physical restrictions that keep them from engaging in more strenuous forms of exercise, such as spinning or lifting weights. Yoga is perfect for virtually everyone because it’s low-impact and provides gentle resistance training, along with stretching.
Because certain forms of yoga are more strenuous than others, it’s important to find either a class that caters to seniors or a gentler form. For example, “Anusara” yoga, which translated means “following your heart,” “going with the flow” or “flowing with grace.” Classes are conducted in a relaxed atmosphere. There are modifications for each pose according to any physical restriction. A senior starting out might do a forward bend while holding a chair for balance.
Yoga can help improve body awareness and balance, which is one of the first things that we lose as we age. Among the other health benefits, yoga can improve sleep and depression, reduce stress, enhance respiratory function, alleviate arthritis pain, increase bone density and help ease moderate chronic pain.
Yoga in Daily Life has several locations in the U. S., including one in the Atlanta area. They offer a class specifically catered to seniors.
Walking provides people of all ages with a low-impact way to keep moving and stay fit. It can help maintain a healthy weight and manage several conditions, like heart disease and Type II diabetes. Walking strengthens bones and muscles and improves mood, balance, and coordination.
Walking alone can be both unsafe and unenjoyable. So, walk with friends or join a group.
Atlanta has several walking clubs for seniors that provide more than just a chance to exercise, but companionship and the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors. Among the Atlanta, clubs are McDaniel Marchers of McDaniel Farm Park, Golden Trotters Walking Club, Central Steppers Walking Club at Central Library, New Life Walkers Club and North Cobb Hiking Club.
Because of its zero impact and low risk of injury, swimming is perfectly suited to seniors. Among its health benefits, swimming improves heart health, it’s gentle on the joints, it improves bone density and reduces the risk of osteoporosis, increases flexibility and improves muscle strength and tone, along with boosting mental health.
For those who aren’t confident swimmers, there are several other types of water exercises that provide the same health benefits. Water aerobics is an aerobics class in the pool, so it encompasses dancing in the water to music.
There are water resistance exercises, which is like standard strength training, but rather than lifting a weight, the water acts as the resistance. And aqua yoga and Pilates are water relaxation exercises.
The YMCA, which has locations around Atlanta, offers senior swim programs. You can also find water aerobics classes at Athletic Club Northeast, Concourse Athletic Club, DeKalb Medical, Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta, Piedmont Healthcare Atlanta Fitness Center and West Gwinnett Park Aquatic Center.
The President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition found that only 35 to 44 percent of adults 75 or older are physically active. That number is even lower – 28 to 34 percent – in the 65 to 74 age range. That’s despite the numerous studies that have shown that staying physically active and exercising regularly can help prevent or delay the onset of many diseases and disabilities. Exercise has been found to be an effective treatment for many chronic conditions, such as arthritis and heart disease.
Perhaps best of all, physical activity instantly boosts our mood and helps us manage stress. It isn’t just good for the body, but it’s good for the soul – at any age.
A proud member of the Sandwich Generation Jordan Smith is a mother of 3 and daughter to 2 aging parents in Atlanta. She balances her time as a caregiver by leaning on her supportive family and Church. Baking, Yoga, and reading are her favorite pass times.