The physical, mental, and emotional benefits of exercise for seniors are well documented. Exercise helps seniors maintain a healthy weight, improve mood, improve sleep habits, stave off cognitive decline, ease the side effects of many conditions, and reduce the risk of chronic disease. In the harsh Canadian winters, outdoor exercise is often out of the picture. Living on a fixed income, signing up for expensive gym memberships or fitness classes is often unrealistic. Fortunately, there’s a long list of free activities that seniors can do to stay fit in the winter:
If you only do one exercise routine, it should be stretching. Stretching is the perfect way to awaken and refresh your body in the morning, and calm and relax your body at night. Stretch each body part and hold the pose for 15-30 seconds and then release. Remember to incorporate a small stretching warm-up when doing other activities like swimming or walking to reduce the risk of injury.
Swimming is an idea exercise for seniors because it is low-impact, meaning it does not stress the joints. Whether you just want to get into the pool to relax or go through a stretching routine, swimming is a whole-body exercise. Swimming is also an endurance exercise that gets the lungs working. In 2014, the City of Toronto eliminated the swim fee for all indoor leisure swimming. This means that leisure swimming (ie: non-lane swimming) is completely free for seniors at public pools throughout the city. In Markham drop-in swimming costs $2.65 per sessions for seniors.
Many malls in Markham and throughout the GTA open early in the morning to accommodate mall-walking programs. Walking is an effective way to keep the heart healthy and stave off cardiovascular diseases. Studies show that just 30 minutes of walking per day cuts the risk of developing cardiovascular disease in half. You can walk at your own pace and stop at any time. It is a great way to get out of the house in the winter and get a mix of social time and exercise. The Cardiac Health Foundation of Canada has an index of mall walking programs in Toronto on their website, so find the mall nearest you!
Seniors may avoid exercise including walking if they do not feel secure or feel off balanced. A mobility assessment may be required. Assessments conducted by registered ADP (Assistive Devices Program) Occupational Therapist will not only ensure the senior receives the right mobility devices, but if eligible will have 75% of the costs funded by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care ADP Program. Using a rollator walker, either four-wheel or two-wheel, will make the senior feel more confident.
If you use a wheelchair or are unable to stand, there are still many beneficial exercises you can do while seated. For example, wheeling around the mall can get your heart pumping and provide an upper-body workout. Seniors can also do resistance training and stretching while seated.
Every Wednesday, MEDability Healthcare Solutions offers free falls prevention and mobility assessments in the store from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. with an Occupational Therapist on site. Come in for advice or to have the rollator walker tuned up to make sure brakes are working and the walker is safe for use.Another excellent way to keep fit and exercise safely is by using the Drive Medical Exercise Peddler either from a sitting position in a chair or for upper body, while seated placing the exerciser on a table.
Stay active this winter! If you have any further questions about senior fitness, MEDability Home Medical Equipment is here to help! Give us a call at 905.471.5224 or visit our store at 5293 Highway 7 East in Markham.