The weather outside may be frightful — but that doesn’t have to make your winter any less delightful!
Here in Chicago and around the country, it’s been an unpredictable winter season, full of changing temperatures, snow, and rain. For seniors and family caregivers, it can be frustrating not knowing what a winter’s day will bring. Many older adults start to feel cooped up during the winter months, experiencing “cabin fever” and all of the feelings that go along with it — including sadness, lethargy, and irritability.
The winter months can also make it challenging for older adults to keep up with their health and fitness routines. For one thing, the hustle and bustle of the holiday season can be distracting, with travel, family, and sweet treats all coming together to make it harder to focus on your health and lifestyle goals. Even after the holidays, frigid temperatures and short, dark days can make it difficult to feel motivated to go out.
One of the best ways to help older adults feel energized, healthy, and positive during the long, cold winter is to help them engage in exercise and physical activity.
While the icy roads and whipping winds may make it difficult to go outside or head to the local gym, there are still plenty of ways for seniors to stay active, without ever leaving their home!
Here are seven indoor exercises and activities perfect for helping the older adult in your life work on their endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility, all winter long:
Walking is a healthy, invigorating, and nourishing form of exercise for people of all ages. For older adults, walking is an easy and low impact way to stay mobile and active, while focusing on all four of the National Institute on Aging’s core fitness areas. Throughout the years, an enormous (and still growing) body of research has highlighted the health benefits of walking, which include improved cardiovascular health; a stronger immune system; stronger bones, muscles, and joints; better sleep habits, improved mood; and greater longevity. If it’s too cold to go out, encourage your loved one to walk around the house, or offer them a ride to a local mall or gym, where they can enjoy a stroll through the Great Indoors.
2.) Doing Chores Around the House
In addition to helping keep their household clean, organized, and safe, doing light housework can offer some enormous benefits to seniors. For instance, one prominent study found that doing routine chores around the house was hugely influential in keeping older adults up and moving, while also providing a meaningful sense of purpose. Additional research suggests that the exercise provided by simple housework may be helpful in protecting seniors’ brain health well into their 70s and 80s.
3.) Balance Exercises
Falls are among the most dangerous and common health hazards facing older adults. Helping your senior loved one improve their balance is one way to help minimize their risk for suffering a severe fall — and it’s certainly possible to work on this important function indoors, even on a cold winter’s day. Everyday Health recommends a few different indoor exercises that can help seniors focus on their balance, including leg raises, toe stands, and core stretches.
4.) Yoga and Tai Chi
Drawing from eastern cultural practices, yoga and tai chi can offer remarkable health benefits to people of all ages. For seniors, these forms of movement are low impact and can help work many different muscle groups and joints at once, helping seniors improve their flexibility, balance, and strength in one easy routine. Meanwhile, both yoga and tai chi have been shown to help reduce stress levels while boosting participants’ moods and energy levels.
5.) Light Dancing
What’s not to love about dancing? If your senior loved one is up to it, play a little music and encourage everyone — including grandkids and family caregivers — to show off their moves. Dancing is a great form of aerobic exercise that helps activate many different parts of the body, allowing older adults to stretch their muscles, build strength, and increase flexibility while enjoying an elevated heart rate. Studies have also shown that dancing on a regular basis can help reduce stress, minimize symptoms of depression, and help lead to increased energy levels.
6.) Light Resistance Training
For seniors, strength training is a great way to remain active and mobile over time. There are many different ways that older adults can practice strength training during the cold winter months. For a light workout with no additional equipment, help your loved one do some “body weight” exercises, such as squats or gentle push-ups. You can also help your loved one exercise with light hand weights or resistance bands, a popular tool in many types of physical therapy.
7.) Fitness Apps and Videos
Many older adults will fondly remember the era of the workout tape. Today, older adults have more options than ever when it comes to getting guided fitness advice and exercises. For instance, the Silver Sneakers program — supported by many Medicare plans — allows older adults to access an on-demand video library of classes, workouts, and how-to videos from their computer. There are also many fitness DVD programs aimed at older adults, and many video game systems, smartwatches, smart speakers, and fitness apps have programs and settings specially designed for helping seniors monitor their health and work toward their fitness goals.
Need Help Making the Most of the Winter?
Looking for support in giving your senior loved one the personalized care they need to truly thrive during the chilly days of winter? Have any questions about helping your loved one stay safe and healthy while remaining active and independent, all year long? We’re here to help!
At Companions for Seniors, our mission is to help seniors live independently and with dignity in the comfort of their own home, by empowering them to lead an active and enriched lifestyle, connecting them with their community, and nurturing meaningful relationships.
Our companions are trained and bonded, and can help provide a variety of services designed to help your loved one remain in the comfort of their own home, including offering a watchful eye, helpful exercise reminders, and crucial support as your loved one starts or continues a fitness routine.
If you have any questions about helping the senior in your life enjoy themselves and remain active while they age in place, don’t hesitate to get in touch online or give us a call at 866-910-9020. We’re here to offer guidance and provide support, in whatever way we can!