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Low-Impact Exercise for Seniors


By Rebekah Alcalde

You may have heard of HIIT workouts, which stands for high-intensity interval training, or other types of high-impact exercise (think jumping jacks, jogging, jump rope) and feel intimated, but thankfully that isn’t the only type out there. Did you know there’s a whole group of low-impact activities that are not only kinder to your body but are also just as good for you?


Here are a few ideas to get started? Also check with your local senior or activity center to see if there are free or low impact exercise classes there!


Walking

This one seems like a no brainer, but walking is amazing for you. It can help maintain a healthy weight, strengthen your joints and improve your mood, balance and coordination. It’s also a nice social activity you can do outdoors with friends or family members, or indoor on a treadmill, where you can adjust the slope or pace without much fuss. Love watching TV? You can walk on a treadmill in front of your favorite soap opera and burn calories at the same time.


Elliptical training

Similar to a treadmill, an elliptical offers an even more low-impact way to get your cardio in. You can find tons of these machines at a gym or fitness equipment store. The main benefit is that the machine takes the pressure off of your knees. The motion makes you feel like you’re picking up your legs higher than you usually would just by walking — while it also provides you with added support under your feet. You can also improve flexibility and mobility on these bad boys.


TRX Suspension training

This new-age technique is often called “total-body resistance exercise” and involves using a strap suspension system that uses gravity and your own body weight to help develop strength, flexibility and balance. It also focuses on improving your core strength. Since it can look confusing, it should only be performed with the assistance of professionals until you’ve received training. Once you’re trained, you can hang the suspension trainer over any solid doorframe and use the handles to perform tons of exercises! You can buy a kit on their website or on Amazon.


Swimming and water aerobics

Another ultimate low-impact activity is swimming, which quite literally takes the pressure off all your joints. While not weightless of course, you will feel like you weigh less in the water — and the water offers resistance, so you can build lean muscle. There are also tons of classes for water aerobics, which include a whole host of activities such as water jogging, flutter kicking, leg lifts, arm curls and more. Classes can also be a fun way to meet people and socialize.


Tai chi

There are many forms of exercise that connect the mind and body, and tai chi is the perfect example. This ancient Chinese form is a low-impact, graceful technique that utilizes flow and steady breathing through a series of poses. Repeatedly shown to have amazing benefits, tai chi can help prevent falls, improve balance, reduce stress and pain, ease depression, increase bone density and even lessen symptoms of Parkinson’s disease!


Yoga and chair yoga

Yoga is another mind-body form of exercise that emphasizes poses and steady breathing. It is actually a group of physical, mental and spiritual practices that originate out of India, but is widely used as a low-impact exercise form in the West. Widely known to be beneficial, yoga studios can be found in most towns, and many senior centers also have free classes.


Have mobility issues? No problem! Chair yoga is a modified form of the art, which makes it more accessible who cannot stand or have trouble maintaining standing postures. Most of the basic body mechanics stay the same while seated, but students can still work their core and stretch their arms to perform twists, hip stretches, forward bends and more. Benefits include healthier breathing habits, reduced stress, improved muscle tone, better sleep and a happier sense of well-being.