Staying active doesn't have to take place in a gym. There are fun, creative activities all around you.
It’s no secret that staying active is one of the keys to feeling young and living a full life. In fact, a recent peer reviewed study found that active seniors experienced a 44% reduction in mortality rate compared to seniors who aren’t active. Let’s take a closer look at some fun and exciting ways you can remain active and exercise your body and mind as you become older and wiser.
Benefits of Remaining Active
The benefits of remaining active are many. First, by staying physically active, physical and mental functions can improve, and certain effects of some chronic diseases can be reversed all thanks to exercising.
Perhaps even more impactful is the fact that those who remain physically active are less likely to become physically disabled in the future. The Journal of the American Medical Association conducted a study in which two groups of individuals were analyzed. The study began with 1,600 individuals who did not engage in much physical activity. For the study, the experimental group engaged in regular physical activity (i.e. walking and balance exercises) while the control group did not.
After 2 ½ years, the effects of the study were analyzed. Researchers discovered that the active group was 28% less likely to become permanently physically disabled. They were also 18% less likely to suffer a debilitating physical episode, such as a broken bone.
In other words, it pays to remain active! Couple this information with the fact that increased activity is fun and rewarding, and there’s no reason not to get up and get active.
A Note On Safety
Before we jump right in and begin an activity and exercise regimen, it’s important that we acknowledge the importance of safety.
Staying active helps to mitigate many risks associated with advancing age. At the same time, there is one particular risk which is exasperated while you exercise, and that’s the risk of falling.
To put it in no uncertain terms, falls are the leading cause of death among seniors in America. Each year, over seven million older Americans are injured as a result of a fall, which results in an estimated 31 billion dollars of healthcare costs. It’s no wonder that medical alert systems are so popular, given those statistics.
This all may seem a bit grave. So, it’s important to keep in mind that exercise has a very positive impact on mitigating falls. It helps to increase your poise and balance, and in many cases, remaining active can contribute to preventing falls in your everyday life.
In addition to the risk of falling, older adults are also exposed to other injury risks that increase with their activity level. This includes things like strains, sprains, tendonitis, shin splints and back pain.
It’s important to know your limits before you begin any strenuous activity. Keep in mind that certain activities may not be ideal for you. If you aren’t quite up to one of the activities below, consider taking up a different activity instead that’s more in line with your abilities.
Consider this safety checklist before looking at the different activities below.
- Consult with your doctor before beginning a new exercise or activity routine.
- Choose activities which are in line with your ability.
- Be sure to wear appropriate footwear (if applicable) that’s comfortable and in good condition.
- Be sure to stay hydrated throughout the activity.
- Avoid exercising outdoors when it’s prohibitively hot or cold.
- Pace yourself. If you’re just beginning a new activity or exercise routine, start small and increase your level of activity each week.
13 Senior Activities To Try Today
There are hundreds of different ways that you can get up and get active today. Here are some fun, productive and beneficial activities with proven benefits for both your physical and mental well being.
1. Tai Chi
The ancient art of Tai Chi is a useful source of exercise for people of all ages. Sometimes referred to as “meditation in motion,” Tai Chi blends lightly strenuous exercise with stretching and mindfulness.
This practice is particularly useful as we get older. Tai Chi improves balance, flexibility and overall fitness levels. Many practitioners of Tai Chi believe it’s also helpful to reduce pain, and some believe it can even reduce symptoms associated with depression. Studies have shown that Tai Chi reduces the risk of falls for older adult practitioners by as much as 45%.
There are Tai Chi centers throughout the country that offer beginner classes in Tai Chi. You can find a center in your area here.
Another low impact source of exercise is swimming. While swimming is fun and enjoyable for just about anybody, there are even more profound reasons for older people to head to the pool for a dip. Swimming has been shown to ease arthritis symptoms, reduce knee, ankle and joint pain and even reduce high blood pressure.
Plus, swimming is extremely refreshing on a hot day, and by its very nature, it eliminates the risk of heat exhaustion or heat stroke while exercising. Almost every town in America has a swimming pool you can access. Many gyms, health, and community centers also have pools available.
3. Walking & Hiking
One of the best ways to remain active while also enjoying the great outdoors is walking or hiking. Dr. Michael Pratt, a chief medical advisor to the CDC, suggests that walking and hiking has “very real benefits for maintaining mobility and independence in older adults.”
It’s also a great way to take in the great outdoors. While walking is an activity that nearly anyone can engage in right now, be sure to discuss the prospect of hiking with your doctor before hitting the trails.
Gardening is a fun and enriching activity that has plenty of cognitive and physical benefits. Gardening can be a great way to learn new skills and regain skills you may have lost. It also helps to improve memory and attention span while reducing stress and promoting feelings of calm and relaxation.
Gardening also helps to foster a sense of accomplishment, as well. Perhaps best of all are the tangible benefits of gardening. By gardening, you’re increasing the beauty of your environment.
Depending on what you decide to grow, you may even be putting food on the table in the process! Plus, it’s an activity you can begin right away. All you’ll need to start a garden is a plot of land and some seeds from your local home store.
5. Board Games
Board games are a fun and enjoyable activity and are a great way for those of us who can’t engage in physical activity to remain active. There’s also plenty of evidence that suggests that board games help to prevent against dementia and cognitive decline.
Engaging in a board game is also a great way to socialize, either with friends and family members or with complete strangers. Many of us already have everything we’ll need to get started collecting dust in a closet. But, if you don’t have any games yet, you’ll find a wide variety of games at local stores or online.
Few things are more beneficial to the human body than yoga. Best of all, it’s not just an activity for the young and fit. There are tons of yoga poses and practices you can incorporate into your exercise routine regardless of how old you are. When it comes to yoga, there is such a wide range of physical and mental benefits.
Practicing yoga can help minimize hypertension, strengthen bones, increase balance and poise, build strength, and reduce anxiety, just to name a few. As for practicing yoga, there are studios throughout the country where you can practice yoga with others in a controlled environment. Many studios even offer classes for those 55 and up.
Yoga practice isn’t limited to a studio, either. There are plenty of online classes or DVDs you can pick up today that will allow you to create a yoga routine from the comfort of your own home.
7. Painting & Drawing
Painting and drawing are another low impact activity you may want to consider incorporating into your daily life. Not only is painting and drawing lots of fun, but there are a ton of other benefits that you’ll enjoy if you take up the hobby. Painting and drawing help to improve fine motor skills while increasing brain activity, concentration and mental health in general.
Many people swear by the type of therapy they experience that only art can provide. Are you thinking about taking up art as a hobby? The good news is all you need is a pencil and paper! If you feel like you’re in need of some more advanced tools, you’ll be able to find everything you need at the local craft or art supply store.
8. Group Trips
One of the most beautiful things about getting older is having more time to enjoy the things you love. If you’ve always wanted to travel and see the world, now is a great time to start. Group trips are a great way to enjoy the world as you connect with others in a social setting.
Many travel agencies specialize in planning trips for people who are 55 and older, and they can pair you with an enthusiastic group of people that are just as ready to enjoy the rest of the world as you are. Before you travel, there are a few things you may want to consider to make sure that you’re traveling safely.
Another engaging activity that’s extremely popular is birdwatching. Birdwatching helps to exercise both your body and your mind, and it can be a great way to get up and get active. Plus, it’s one of the most affordable activities there are.
All you’ll need to become a successful birdwatcher is a field guide and perhaps a pair of binoculars.
10. Scrapbooking & Collages
Scrapbooking is another great activity that’s particularly popular among those 55 and older. It’s a great way to connect with the past while enjoying the present. There are also many therapeutic benefits associated with scrapbooking.
Scrapbooking helps to improve memory function while stimulating the mind, it’s also a great way to relax, which can help to lower blood pressure as well. Scrapbooking is a self-esteem booster, and it can also be a great way to communicate with others. Here are some fun ideas for getting started with scrapbooking.
11. Playing an Instrument
If you’re like most people, you’ve spent your entire life enjoying music. But, you may be unaware of the benefits that playing an instrument has, especially if you get older. Playing an instrument is a great way to improve cognitive function and coordination, and it also has a positive impact on our ability to hear and process speech.
Plus, according to The Hearing Journal, learning an instrument later in life improves our ability to process and retain information.
12. Cooking & Baking
There’s a good chance you’ve been engaged in cooking and baking for many years. But, did you know that cooking and baking have a strong positive effect on our mental health? Cooking helps to stimulate our senses, it makes us (and others) happy, and it can also be a great creative outlet. If you’re looking for a new activity to engage in, you might want to consider diving into an activity you’ve known your entire life and head for the kitchen!
13. Knitting & Crocheting
There’s a reason why these are such popular activities; Knitting and crocheting are therapeutic! Knitting is a great way to keep your fingers dexterous as you get older. They are also a fantastic creative outlet, and a fun way to blow off stress.
If you’re looking for an activity that will lend a sense of purpose, knitting and crocheting may be the answer. There are tons of charitable organizations that you can help right now by knitting or crocheting.
Take Action Now
Any of the activities above are great outlets that can help you exercise your mind, body, and soul. Not only are these activities fun and fulfilling, but they can be seriously beneficial to your health and wellbeing.
By getting more active, you’re sure to find more enjoyment in your leisure time. Best of all, increasing your activity level will promote living a longer, healthier and happier life. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and get active!
- By Vincent Valvo
Vincent Valvo is the founder of ShieldMySenior.com; a website dedicated to helping seniors “Age Awesomely.” On the site, you will find great information related to independent living and senior safety.
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“Physical activity in older age: perspectives for healthy ageing and frailty,” National Center for Biotechnology Information.
“Falls are leading cause of injury and death in older Americans,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Falls are leading cause of injury and death in older Americans,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Making Waves: The benefits of swimming on aging populations,” Texas Education Magazine Online.
“What Is the Evidence to Support the Use of Therapeutic Gardens for the Elderly?” National Center for Biotechnology Information.
“Playing board games, cognitive decline and dementia: a French population-based cohort study,” National Center for Biotechnology Information.
“Yoga Health Benefits As You Age,” AARP.
“11 Great Benefits of Painting,” ArtBlanco.com.
“Travelers' Health: Senior Citizens,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Top 5 Therapeutic Benefits of Scrapbooking,” Greg Nowak.
“5 Reasons Baking is Good for Mental Health,” Elana Goldberg.