Guest Author : Lorena Santacruz is a Yoga Teacher, Holistic Nutrition Consultant, and Fitness Instructor at FitGaThe benefits of regular exercise (reducing your risk of chronic and debilitating illness such as diabetes and arthritis while at the same time increasing your cardiovascular health and lung function) far outweigh the excuses for not adding it to your life! Unfortunately for older adults and the elderly dealing with osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic pain and other ailments can make staying strong, healthy, motivated and physically active quite a challenge! Older adults should start slowly. Try adding just five minutes of exercise into your daily routine and gradually increase the time to 30 minutes a day. It’s also important to add strengthening exercises twice a week to reduce muscle and bone loss and increase your flexibility and strength. My two recommended go to activities for older adults would have to be swimming and YOGA! Exercising in the water puts less stress on joints and allows people with arthritis a gentle relief from pain. With many types of water exercise, you don’t even need to know how to swim to take part in them. Just as long as you can get into a swimming pool and are able to move your arms and legs to promote circulation can be enough of a workout and strength building workout for seniors. Even walking in the pool is going to give the resistance needed to build extra strength while at the same time being gentle and easy enough on the joint to actually relive from pain and inflammation. Swimming is a classic type heart-rate-raising exercise. No matter your experience level or how many strokes you may or may not take, understand this: Swimming is one of the best overall workouts you can do. It affects your whole body. It benefits your heart, your lung function, your flexibility, your muscle tone and strength and it’s also low-impact and burns as many as 500 to 650 calories in an hour. Relaxation is an important part of well-rounded health. Practicing relaxation techniques in a pool of warm water can help to loosen tight muscles and ease joint pain, whether from aging, chronic illness or injury. It may also help to reduce your blood pressure, reduce your heart rate and reduce the amount of stress hormone your body produces while boosting your energy and your immune system. Now for my favourite recommended for of exercise for everyone out there but especially seniors YOGA!! Yoga can be an effective therapy for improving the health and wellbeing for seniors and the elderly, the great thing about yoga is it can be completely modified and done in the comfort of a chair or even a bed. The slow gentle movements in yoga are excellent for helping seniors with limited mobility integrate movement, physical exercise and relaxing breathing techniques into their lives. Unlike weight training yoga is low impact, easy on the joints and has lower injury risk for older adults and the elderly. Yoga stretches the body which can help seniors maintain good range of motion as they begin to age. The breathing and relaxation can improve the quality of their mood, sleep, attitude towards life and their overall health and wellbeing. Yoga reduces joint pain, muscle stiffness and overall physical discomfort. Fluid movement and breathing allow swollen joints to glide smoothly over one another to help promote pain relief. The two poses that I personally highly recommend and always include in all my classes whether they are advanced, beginner, kids or seniors are Cat-Cow and Spinal Twist.
- Cat-Cow: The fluid movement is especially beneficial for those suffering from arthritis who experience pain in exercises that involve static movement. The gentle rhythmic flexing and extension of the back helps lubricate the joints and buffers against pain friction. Benefits include increased spinal flexibility, opens the lower back abdominal cavity, aids in digestion, opens the chest, throat and shoulders, increases circulation, and stimulates thyroid and parathyroid function, therapeutic for mild carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, sciatica and low back injury. It also energizes the mind, relieves mild depression, anxiety and reduces stress.
- Seated Spinal Twist: Works to lengthen and release tension from spine, helping keep internal organs healthy and supple especially kidneys, liver and adrenal glands. Some of the other benefits of this pose include stimulates the digestive, circulatory and lymphatic systems, strengthens and tones the abdominal muscles, strengthens and stretches the legs and shoulders, massages the kidneys and liver, opens the chest and shoulders, promotes healthy pituitary gland function. Also relieves mild depression and helps to reduce stress and anxiety.