Dealing with Arthritis: Gentle Fitness Routines to Keep Seniors Active & Happy

Posted On Tuesday, 05 June 2018
Dealing with Arthritis: Gentle Fitness Routines to Keep Seniors Active & Happy

Fitness experts have predicted that this year will see more people doing high-intensity interval training (HIIT) as more Americans are finding ways to get fit and healthy.

But, for seniors, trying to do HIIT exercises can be a challenge as it involves bursts of high-intensity exercise, and the risks of sustaining an injury are greater with this type of workout.

Moreover, overly intense forms of exercise may trigger an older adult's pre-existing medical conditions, such as arthritis, which is the leading cause of disability in the U.S.

Though HIIT and other forms of rigorous exercise—long runs, stair climbs, and deadlifts—can potentially cause injury to older adults, there’s no reason why seniors should avoid working out altogether. According to the CDC, older adults need at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week, and there are lots of ways to get fit without straining one’s joints or muscles or triggering arthritis symptoms.

Here are a few gentle yet effective fitness routines to keep seniors active and happy.

Get into the Groove

Dancing is a great way to move one’s joints and limbs, improve gait, balance, and coordination, and best of all, it’s a lot of fun. You get to socialize with other people as you move your feet to the beat of your favorite tunes. Head to the nearest community center and see if they offer free dance classes or find out if your local gym offers senior dance classes, which are often tailored to older adults with pre-existing medical conditions. Jazz, ballroom, or low-impact aerobics are styles of dance that are gentle on the joints and are easy to learn, even if you’re a dance novice. To avoid joint pain, go slowly and avoid sudden or sharp movements when dancing.

Do Some Pedaling

Cycling is one way to enjoy the benefits of nature as you get to breathe in some fresh air while working on your fitness. If you don’t feel secure on your bike anymore or if the weather is not ideal for biking, you can still pedal away on a stationary bike at home. Recumbent bikes are particularly good for seniors because they don’t put unnecessary stress or strain on the body. If you easily get bored while exercising indoors, try cycling while watching your favorite TV show—you’ll hardly notice the time when your attention is somewhere else. Aim to pedal for 30 to 40 minutes at least three times a week to improve mobility without triggering arthritis symptoms.

Go Slow & Steady with Tai Chi

For a low-impact workout that won't trigger arthritis, try doing Tai Chi. This type of workout involves smooth and slow movements that are gentle on joints, and it can improve a senior's balance and flexibility. A study has shown that just doing two one-hour sessions of Tai Chi every week for 10 weeks can greatly improve an older adult's quality of life by reducing arthritis symptoms and improving physical functioning.

Other fun workouts that are suited for older adults with arthritis include gardening, playing a round of golf, or swimming—it’s all a matter of finding out what works for you.

Doing any type of physical activity on a regular basis is beneficial for physical, mental, and emotional health, which are the keys towards healthy aging. To make sure that you get the full benefits of an exercise routine, try to exercise for at least 30 minutes twice a week and don’t strain yourself with activities that may lead to injury.

Jess Walter

Jess Walter is a freelance writer and mother. She loves the freedom that comes with freelance life and the additional time it means she gets to spend with her family and pets.

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