Picture this: a lazy Tuesday morning with the newspaper in one hand, and a cup of coffee in the other. The birds are singing their sweetest songs, and the sun is smiling at you – warm, but not piercing. You smile as Emily joins you on the porch. Together you lose yourselves in the lovely morning, just taking in the calm and cool breeze.

You’re not in a rush; where have you got to be, anyway? The only moment of the day that demands a slight bit of agility, is the one where you need to return to your couch, in front of the television, right in time for your favorite show to resume. You had just snuck out to the kitchen to grab a snack during the commercial break. It sounds like Paradise.

You’ve spent all your life working, just so you could relax today. You’re 65 years old – you deserve the chance to do nothing but rest, right?

Perhaps not.

Time spent engaging in some sort of physical activity reduces significantly post-retirement. Lack of motivation and reduced confidence in one’s physical ability are perhaps some reasons for this. There is a blanket of myths over the idea of elderly people’s physical competence. Exercise is considered risky after a person crosses a certain age. Some people even claim that only vigorous exercise is effective, and in order to be healthy, one must solely take up activities like those. Studies have proved that both these notions are far from the truth. Exercise actually reduces your risk of developing various ailments, and, any level of intensity helps, as long as your body is moving! Through this article, we hope to kindle a spark of inspiration that would make you want to begin your journey of fitness, and help you get through that journey smoothly as well.

Retirement is a huge change in people’s lives. It comes as no surprise that the work you engaged yourselves in, played a huge role in shaping your identity. The children you raised and cared, for now, have their own lives to build and experience. Raising them to the best of your ability was a part of your purpose in life. When these chunks of your identity are suddenly taken away, you tend to feel lost. It paves the way for anxiety.

“When people ask me what I do, how do I even answer them?”

You might find yourself pondering over this question repeatedly. Several times a week. Maybe several times a day. Post-retirement anxiety and stress is an issue faced by a number of people. What if we told you that exercising could help you improve your mental health?

Exercise keeps you engaged, helping you divert your attention from that which causes you mental discomfort. Not only this, but it’s also a natural treatment for issues like anxiety! It increases the levels of hormones like dopamine in your body, which helps you rid yourself of stress and anxiety.

“But I’m not experiencing any anxiety at all. I’m perfectly happy with my new life. I’ve never been this stress-free, ever! Do I still need to exercise?”

Kudos to you for making such a significant change so well! Although, it goes without saying that exercise, or the absence of it, has numerous effects on other aspects of your health as well.

Apart from various physical issues like obesity, high blood pressure, and an increased risk of certain cancers and mobility disabilities, lack of exercise can also increase the chances of brain disorders like dementia. According to data from the World Health Organisation, 3.2 million lives annually could be saved if the individuals exercised regularly. Suffice it to say, a lot of negatives can be completely avoided if a sedentary lifestyle is!

Contrary to popular belief, exercising actually reduces your chances of a fall. By increasing your stamina levels and strength, loss of bone mass is prevented. This improves your balance, making you less likely to fall and injure yourself!

Physical exercise has also aided people to fall into a deep sleep – which is the phase of restorative sleep – quicker. This helps them wake up all charged up for the day ahead. This boosts one’s immunity and, you guessed it, helps reduce stress as well. An improved immunity as a result of better sleep? It’s a win-win situation!

“Great, I really want to start exercising now. But I’m old and I can’t just get up one day and start working out. What if I hurt myself?”

First and foremost, if you are above the age of 40, are suffering from a chronic illness, or just haven’t been very active lately, it is imperative that you consult a doctor about the physical activities you may or may not indulge in.

Now, we understand that it can be really overwhelming to start exercising. You may feel like you are not physically healthy enough, or you might not know where to start from. The point to remember here is that something is always better than nothing. A peaceful five-minute stroll in the park is still more helpful than five minutes of relaxing on your couch. The process is slow. You need to start small and your exercise routine has to be weaved into your daily schedule gradually. And, for when you do decide to start, we have a few ideas to help you on this journey of mental and physical well being.

“So, how do we incorporate exercise in our lives?”

The saying ‘the more, the merrier’ couldn’t have been more appropriate for this situation. If you can find a group of like-minded people who are looking to get active again, you could plan group activities for everyone. Scheduling your exercises with others keeps you motivated to keep going. You can set goals and share your progress with them, and not to forget, it’s incredibly fun! It gives you the advantage of socializing while putting in your hours of exercise as well!

For all of you that thought that having arthritis could give you a reason to excuse yourself from exercising, we have some news for you! Even individuals with arthritis have various joint-friendly options to choose from, including cycling, walking and swimming. Search for these activity-friendly areas near you, like your neighborhood park or swimming pool, and make up your mind to dedicate a portion of your day to this.

Even if you only have limited mobility, there is a lot you can do from the comforts of your home. Say no to excuses! A number of seated exercises have been formulated for the benefit of seniors. Let’s now take a look at some of those.

#1 Balancing Wand

This balance exercise can be performed while being seated. You’ll require a cane or a stick. A broomstick works well for this – just remove the broom’s head before you start.

Now, hold the bottom of the stick so that it’s flat on the palm of your hand. The goal of this exercise is to keep the stick upright for as long as possible. You can switch your hands as well so that you can improve balance on both sides of the body.

Goal: Improved balance.

#2 Shoulder Rolls

This can even be done while standing if you’d like. You’ll need to move your shoulders back, squeezing the shoulder blades together. Then exhale, and drop your shoulders back. Move the elbows forward – you should now be able to feel the stretch at the back of your shoulders.

Goal: Relieving accumulated tension in the shoulder and back.

#3 Hand and Finger Exercises

In the first exercise, you’ll need to pretend that there’s a wall in front of you. Then, your fingers will climb the wall until they’re above your head. While holding your arms above your head, wiggle your fingers for ten seconds. Then, walk them back down.

For the second exercise, touch your hands while they’re behind your back. Reach for your left hand while your right hand is behind your back. Remain in that position for ten seconds, and then try the same with the other arm.

Goal: Improving flexibility

#4 Calf Stretches

The first thing you’ll need is a towel. Sit down onto the floor with both your legs stretched in front of you. Place the towel around the soles of your right foot and hold both ends. Pull the towel towards you while keeping your knee straight and hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat the exercise two to four times on each leg.

Goal: Increasing strength

While the above exercises can be performed by anyone, here’s something for those of you who can go that extra mile and exercise while standing!

#1 Single Limb Stance

Stand behind a steady, solid chair (not one with wheels!), and hold on to the top rail (back of it). Lift up your right foot and balance on your left foot. Hold that position for as long as you can, and then switch feet.
You should aim to stand on one foot without holding onto the chair and hold that pose for up to a minute.

Goal: Improving overall balance.

#2 Walking Heel to Toe

Remember how we talked about exercise making you less prone to falls? Well, this exercise makes your legs stronger, and enables you to walk without falling.

Put your right foot in front of your left foot so that the heel of your right foot touches the top of the toes of your left foot. Move your left foot in front of your right, putting your weight on your heel. Then, shift your weight to your toes. Repeat the step with your left foot. Walk this way for 20 steps.

Goal: Increasing strength

#3 Back Leg Raises

Stand behind a chair or face a wall. Slowly lift your left leg straight back – don’t bend your knees or point your toes. Use the wall or chair as support if needed. Hold that position for one second, then gently bring your leg back down. Repeat this ten to fifteen times per leg.

Goal: Strengthening the bottom and lower back.

#4 Single Limb Stance with Arm

Stand with your feet together and arms at your side. Lift your left hand over your head. Then, slowly raise your left foot off the floor. Hold that position for ten seconds. Repeat the same action on the right side.

Goal: Improving overall physical coordination.

#5 Toe Lifts

You’ll need a chair or you can face a wall. Stand straight and put your arms in front of you and use the chair or wall as support. Raise yourself up on your toes as high as you can go, then gently lower yourself. Don’t lean too far forward on the chair or counter. Lift and lower yourself 20 times.

Goal: Improving leg strength, which also helps with body balance.

#5 Calf Stretches

First, find a wall with nothing on it. Stand facing the wall with your hands at eye level. Place your left leg behind your right leg. Keep your left heel on the floor and bend your right knee. Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat two to four times per leg.

The next time someone tells you that older people ‘can’t exercise’, you’ll be able to prove them wrong and show them how it’s really done! We hope that this inspired you to take control of your health again and to take the first step towards enriching your retired life.

Reference and image credits:

lifeline canada

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