Staying active in older years can be tough. This is partly because of achy joints that do not work as well as they used to. But as you get older, an active lifestyle becomes more important than ever to your health. Aquatic exercises are one of the best ways for seniors to stay mentally and physically healthy. It allows you to stay active without putting excess stress on your joints. The buoyancy of water reduces stress on the joints, helping seniors find relief.
Benefits of aquatic exercises for seniors
Aquatic exercises are more fun compared to cardio or weight lifting and result in a killer workout. It is also the ideal exercise medium for seniors as it helps them maintain good health at a comfortable, functional level. Notable benefits of aquatic exercises for seniors include:
This is the force fluid molecules place on the body when immersed in water. It acts even without movement, which becomes beneficial for seniors as it helps to decrease swelling and pain. It decreases the range of motion as well as improving blood circulation.
Increases strength and balance
Exercises that are done in water that is waist-deep build strength as seniors fight the water movements to stay balanced. This builds muscle endurance thus reducing the risks of injury from falls associated with loss of balance.
It improves cardiovascular health
Aquatic exercises help raise the heart rate thus burning fat and improving overall cardiovascular health. Through these exercises, the heart and lungs are trained to use oxygen more efficiently, reducing the risks of a heart attack.
It improves mood and reduces anxiety
Aquatic exercises trigger the release of endorphins, the so-called “feel good” hormones, that help in improving mood and reduce anxiety. Moreover, being in the water has a general relaxation effect on the body. The cooling effect of pool water on our bodies also leaves us feeling refreshed.
Reduced impact on the joints
While seniors make body movements inside water, the natural buoyancy of the water helps to reduce the pressure and stress from joints. This, in turn, helps to reduce pain levels for seniors with conditions such as arthritis.
Weight loss and metabolism
Seniors are at a higher risk of developing chronic diseases when they are overweight. This is why they need to stay active as part of their weight control efforts. Water-based physical activities can increase metabolism, helping in the reduction of fats in the body through the burning of calories. Also, aquatic exercises such as underwater treadmills offer more weight-loss benefits than land-based treadmills.
Aquatic exercises challenge your body’s joints to move more freely through a full range of motion, keeping your muscles flexible and less prone to injury. As a result, ordinary physical activities such as tying shoes, playing with grandchildren become easier for seniors.
Getting started safely
Exercising especially as you age is one of the healthiest decisions you can make, but it is important to do it safely. Some of the tips a senior can use to ensure safety even as they embark on aquatic exercising are the following:
Get medical clearance
As a senior, if you have any pre-existing medical conditions then seek medical clearance from your doctor first before adopting any exercise plan. Let the doctor guide you on the type of aquatic exercise you may safely engage in.
Listen to your body
Aquatic exercise is not supposed to hurt you but rather make you enjoy it. Where you experience any chest pain, dizziness, or shortness of breath, stop, and immediately contact your doctor.
Start slow and build up gradually
Build up your exercise program by spacing your workouts. This increases your fitness as well as confidence day by day.
Take breaks in between your exercises. Drink lots of water and avoid overworking your body.
Have an exercise schedule
As you start exercising, ensure to make a schedule so that you do not interfere with timings for medications, doctor’s appointments, and such commitments which are equally important.
Have a good diet
Support your activity levels with the right diet. A good diet with sufficient high-quality protein has a major impact on your mood, energy, and fitness.
Types of aquatic exercises for seniors
Among the most common aquatic exercises is swimming. Swimming gives a reliably good workout for seniors. Try different swimming strokes such as front crawl, breaststroke, sidestroke, and backstroke. Swimming all muscles thus improving flexibility in the body.
This exercise can be performed by holding a kickboard out in front of you while fluttering your legs to propel you back and forth from one end of the pool to the other. You can also do the exercise without a kickboard by holding onto the side of the pool while performing a front float, flutter kicking your legs as you hold your head above the water. This is a great low-impact cardio exercise for seniors.
With this exercise, use water weights to offer more resistance for better results. Stand in the middle of the pool, with your arms in front palms facing out while holding the weights in front of you. Curl the weights up and down. Repeat the curling motion several times until you reach your limit.
This exercise uses the resistance of the water to work all of the legs muscles. You can perform it by standing in the pool and lifting one leg out to the side and then back down. Do this several times before switching to the other leg. This activity not only works the legs but also helps improve balance.
This exercise type is one of the best to strengthen the upper leg muscles and keep hips strong and flexible. To perform it:
- ensure the water is deep enough to reach your lower back,
- stand at one side of the pool, holding on to the edge,
- while standing straight, swing the outside leg forward. Hold it for five seconds,
- swing the outside leg backward,
- hold for five seconds,
- repeat in both directions about 12 times,
- repeat on the other side.
Find a spot in the pool where the water reaches the height of your chest. While standing straight, extend your arms and legs as far as possible in a marching motion. Keep your toes pointed and move your arms with energy as you march across the pool. Continue marching until you are fatigued.
This exercise focuses on your calves, promoting lower body strength. To do this activity, shift your weight forward to the balls of your feet and lift your heels to try stand on your toes. Hold this position for a few seconds then lower down your heels. Repeat at least 10 times.
Water yoga relieves aches and pains while building coordination. Aquatic yoga activities include stretching to improve balance, breathing exercises, lengthening, and relaxing.
This exercise can be as simple as jogging from one side of the pool to the other. It is one of the best water exercises for seniors because it is a low-impact exercise but still gets the heart pumping and blood flowing throughout the body.
Standing water push-ups
This activity builds shoulder, chest, and arm strength without putting too much pressure on the joints. While standing along the side of the pool, place your hands a little wider apart. While bending your arms, lean in towards the wall, then push yourself back out. Repeat the exercise several times until you feel that you have reached your limit.
Tips for staying motivated
It is easy to get discouraged in your exercise schedule by things like changes in weather and illness that may interrupt your routine. There are several ways you can use to help you stay motivated towards exercising. These include:
- Get support. Exercise with a friend or family member. This way, you can encourage and motivate one another.
- Keep a log. Get an exercise journal and write down your exercise achievements. This keeps you accountable as well as motivates you by reminding you how far you have come so far.
- Set short-term goals. Give yourself short exercise targets that you can accomplish in a short time. This will motivate you to go for the next target.
- Reward yourself. When you complete an exercise run or accomplish a new fitness target, reward yourself with something that you like and which makes you happy. For example, you can treat yourself with a cup of exquisite but healthy coffee.
Myths about seniors and exercise
Keeping fit through exercise makes a huge difference in how you feel and move. However, there are misconceptions that society has towards seniors exercising. Some of these myths are:
- Seniors are too old to start exercising. The fact is that adults who become active in their later years show greater physical and mental improvements vis a vis younger individuals. It is important to note that the lack of regular exercise can speed up the aging process.
- Exercise will cause injury to seniors. Contrary to this misconception, regular exercise prevents loss of bone mass thus building strength and stamina. If exercise is performed and progressed correctly, seniors tend to improve their balance and reduce the risks of injuries caused by falling.
- Heart of a senior isn’t strong enough to exercise. Regular exercise done properly helps strengthen your heart rather than put it at risk. It helps in blood circulation as well as keeping your cholesterol levels at check.
- I’m too weak or have too many aches and pains. Contrary to this myth, exercise can help you manage pain and boost your self-confidence. The key is to start gently.
Most seniors face the challenge of doing physical activity to keep fit while avoiding injury from falls and joint issues. It is usually a struggle for many to find a safe yet impactful type of exercise. Water exercises are a perfect solution to this challenge. They are low impact, safe, enjoyable, and extremely beneficial. Out of the many types of aquatic exercise, some may become favorites while some will just be a total no. Which is fine, the point is to get an exercise that you enjoy so that you get motivated to do it day after day. Above everything else, remember to stay committed. Developing a strong commitment to improving physical activity is the only way you will realize the benefits of exercising.