Most people understand and agree that exercise is an essential aspect of living a healthy lifestyle. But it’s not always easy to stick to a regular routine of physical activity, especially during the winter months. When we’re spending more time indoors, we can quickly slip into sedentary behaviors. However, it’s important to keep moving all year long, no matter the weather.
We recently spoke with Alex Sheets, Exercise Specialist at Bethany Village, about the benefits of exercise for people of all ages. Alex is an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer who is passionate about helping Bethany Village residents improve their wellness and quality of life through exercise. This week, Alex shared some information on how older adults can stay physically active in the chilly winter months. Here are some of his top tips:
Participating in aerobic exercise – also known as “cardio” – is beneficial for people of all ages, helping to improve both heart and lung health and function. “I try to encourage older adults to engage in any kind of activity that they enjoy, especially activities that get their heart rate elevated for an extended period of time,” says Alex.
According to Alex, one of the easiest ways to add more aerobic activity to your day is by simply walking. “I try to encourage people to walk as much as they can,” he says.
“Something we do every year at Bethany Village is a walking challenge,” he added. “There’s a big board outside our fitness center where our residents can come in and track how far they walked each day. It helps everyone stay motivated to keep moving throughout their day.”
In the winter, there are fewer daylight hours, which can cause our energy levels to decrease. Engaging in light physical activity such as walking can provide a natural energy boost.
“Walking is such a great activity because it’s low-impact and it can be easily done indoors during the cold winter months. Many residents enjoy walking the hallways of our community as well as using the treadmills in our Fitness Center,” Alex said.
Join a group exercise class
In general, adults should try to exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, five times a week, says Alex. But if you find it difficult keep up your motivation to exercise regularly, joining a group fitness class may help. At Bethany Village, residents have access to a variety of fun and engaging group fitness classes focused on aerobics as well as strength training.
“A lot of our residents love coming to our group fitness classes,” says Alex. “They like to be around other people in an exercise setting, right next to their friends. We try to keep things light-hearted and make exercise a fun, social experience.”
“For many seniors, exercising is also a stress release. Our residents really enjoy going through the movements and pushing themselves, and having that sense of camaraderie with others. It encourages them to keep going and stay motivated,” he said.
Try at-home exercises
While most of us know that living a sedentary lifestyle is bad for our health, it can be tempting to remain inactive during the long winter months. However, sitting for a long period of time may lead to loss of muscle mass, tight joints and muscles, poor circulation, and a decrease in one’s range of motion. Studies find that being sedentary can also negatively impact mood and mental health, leading to an increased risk of fatigue, anxiety, and depression. That’s why in addition to walking and engaging in exercise programs, Alex recommends doing at-home exercises on a daily basis to help minimize sedentary behavior.
When it comes to staying physically active throughout the day, every little bit counts, Alex says. There are plenty of simple exercises that can be done anywhere, anytime, without requiring any special equipment.
“I like to encourage older adults to do things like ‘sit-to-stands’ which involves using their chair or sofa to practice the motion of standing up and sitting back down. For example, if you’re sitting and watching TV, try to do a few sit-to-stands during the commercial breaks. It helps to break up your routine and prevents the dangers of staying sedentary for too long throughout the day,” he said.
Regular exercise is among the best things we can do to promote healthy aging. Staying physically active is not only rewarding and enjoyable, but it can help us remain mobile and independent for longer. Remember, it’s never too late to start exercising. Adding just a few minutes of activity to your day can make a big difference!
Always consult your doctor before beginning any new exercise program.