5 Ways to Encourage Seniors to Exercise

Just because your elderly loved one hasn’t played a sport in 50 years, it doesn’t mean they don’t still need their cheerleaders. If you’re looking to get your parent or grandparent up, out, and exercising, don’t miss these five helpful ideas for boosting their fitness confidence and motivation:

Schedule It

Prioritizing routine exercise is most successful when it is literally scheduled into the calendar. Designating a time each day to exercise for thirty minutes or an hour (aim for the same time so that mental and muscle memory can lock it in) makes physical fitness more of a routine and less of a roadblock for your loved one. Low impact activities like brisk walks, swimming, rowing, cycling, dancing, and yoga offer great cardiorespiratory and strength training exercises for seniors.

Daily schedules naturally provide a framework for older adults which help them thrive and succeed too, especially if cognitive decline or memory loss is a concern. Knowing that exercise is happening each afternoon at 3pm, for example, gives your loved one something to look forward to, helps them manage and control their own day (and their health), and also provides an activity with which they can feel purposeful and active.

Simplify Daily Living

Day to day living brings with it its own set of challenges for many seniors, especially those dealing with mobility issues or health conditions. Regular exercise on top of that can seem overwhelming and simply not worth it. That’s where simple but effective ease-of-use tools can come in handy.

If your loved one experiences arthritis pain, simple devices like a reacher grabber tool or handle gripper can simplify daily tasks, prevent painful joint inflammation, and give them that boost of confidence they need to make healthier fitness choices too. Seniors who have experienced a fall may be fearful of exerting themselves or trying new fitness routines. Household tools like a long shoe horn or button hook can assist them with even basic tasks like getting dressed, and that small dose of self-reliance might be just what they need to decide to get moving.

Sign Them Up For a Class

Membership to a gym may seem over the top for your favorite senior until you learn that there are programs for older adults, like SilverSneakers, which offer free access to over 13,000 participating gyms across the U.S. Signing up for free and discounted senior fitness classes at the local YMCA or senior center may also be just the thing that holds your elderly loved one accountable to their own physical fitness.

Dedicating themselves to attending a class means little to a senior though if they struggle to find transportation or a way to actually get there. For your parent, grandparent, or friend, offer a ride (or even join them!) to their exercise class or coordinate a ride for them with public transportation, paratransit, ridesharing, or free senior ride services in your area.

Provide Canine Companionship

There’s hardly anything more compelling to get someone out of the house to go on a walk than a dog who needs to use the bathroom. Furry friends not only offer canine companionship and security to older adults, but they provide a joyful impetus for exercising too. Going on a brisk walk with a dog, hiking, swimming, even playing fetch can give your favorite senior a chance to burn some calories and get their heart rate up, all while having a great time.

Make a note, however, dogs (especially rambunctious ones) can be trip hazards, which is especially dangerous for seniors. If owning a dog isn’t in the cards, volunteering at an animal shelter or even offering to pet sit or dog walk for neighbors may be a more viable alternative.

Share Fitness Technology

Fitness technology isn’t just for young people. From mobile apps to wearable devices, fitness technology provides real-time success metrics that can power greater, longer fitness routines, for seniors too! Wearable FitBit bracelets and BellaBeat pendants stay with you throughout the day and relay data back to an online dashboard that shares your steps walked, heart rate, calories burned, and more. Downloadable apps like MyFitnessPal also prompt people to track their nutrition, sleep patterns, and even journal about their mood and exercise.

The truth is, many seniors think that ‘taking it easy’ and ‘not exerting yourself’ is the best way to stay healthy and injury-free as you age. This misconception can actually lead to greater health risks of heart disease and cognitive decline down the line. Routine exercise might seem daunting, but with a little encouragement from friends and family, and the right tools to make it accessible and easy, seniors can be gearing up their physical fitness game in no time.

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