How much do you move in a given day? If you’re like many of us, our busy schedules result in a very small amount of daily physical activity. In fact, a study of fairly active older adults revealed that only 7 percent of a typical day is spent walking, with another 22 percent standing. That means even active older adults are spending 70 percent of the day either sitting or lying down.
Staying active is vital to remaining healthy and independent as you age. Not only does it keep your joints active and boost your overall physical health, but consistent physical activity also has cognitive benefits. The good news is, you don’t have to feel pressured to hit the gym every day. In fact, there are small changes you can make in your life to improve mobility and stay active.
Get an activity tracker
The first step in improving your mobility is understanding your current activity levels. A fitness tracker is a great way to monitor the amount of time you spend moving around each day. Today’s activity trackers have a variety of features ideal for older adults, including sleep tracking and heart rate monitoring.
Find fun activities
If you think of exercise as a chore, you’ll likely engage in it less than you would have otherwise. Instead, find fun ways to be more active. Getting outdoors has many benefits as well, so if you enjoy being outdoors, find a way to combine the two, this could look like a gentle walk around your community or even an outdoor yoga or stretching class. Another way to seek out enjoyable ways to move is to invite friends and spend that time socializing. When you’re having fun, you don’t even think about the exercise you’re getting.
Join a class
Classes help in two important ways: they keep you physically active and they provide the social interaction that’s so crucial to your mental well-being. Check with your local senior center or community center for classes geared toward your interests. Water aerobics can be especially beneficial if you have mobility issues, so check with any local aquatics facilities to see if a class is offered for older adults.
Focus on strength and balance
Often people associate physical fitness with walking or working out, but for older adults, strength and balance are top priority. You’ll probably notice that many classes advertised as being for seniors revolve around increasing your flexibility and muscle mass. Find exercises you can do at home and take time to do them each day while you’re watching TV. You could also buy some small hand weights and keep them by your favorite chair to work out your arms while you’re sitting.
Use mobility assistance
If you have trouble getting around, you may find you’re more sedentary than you should be. Set your home up to make it easier to get around, installing railings and safety bars. If you haven’t already, you should also ask your physician to prescribe a walking cane and/or walker that you can easily take with you wherever you go. Even if you start out by using them just around the house, you’ll find you’re far more mobile when you have a little help.
As always, check with your physician before starting a new activity, especially if it will be somewhat strenuous. There are more opportunities than ever for older adults to be more active, so you should be able to find an activity that suits your own physical fitness levels.