When we hear the word “exercise”, the first thoughts or images that come to mind are Health clubs, weight training and huffing and puffing our way to fitness.
BUT if you think of exercise as ‘me in motion’ what do you see—
- Taking care of ourselves
- Providing flexibility to prevent falls
- Maintaining muscle tone
- Ensuring a good blood flow to our brains
- Boosting our moods
- Providing a chance to meet new people and socialize with friends
- When outdoors, providing a source of vitamin D and fresh air
As seniors, in addition to being persons with many different physical and intellectual limitations, our needs for exercise can be as individual as each of us is. Perhaps you use a wheelchair, or a walker. You might have bad knees or a knee replacement along with breathing issues, weight control issues or a pacemaker. It can really be hard for us to participate in ‘regular exercise’, so we need to look at imaginative ways to get the exercise we need.
But before we can do anything, there are a few important rules to follow.
- Always check with your doctor. Remember to tell him what medications you are on.
- Follow your doctor’s recommendations before starting any exercise, including checking with a physiotherapist or an occupational therapist
- When exercising, remember to take a list of your medications and health issues so your instructor and friends know in case of any emergency.
Now that this is taken care of here are some ideas to get you ‘in motion’
- We have many ways to get moving. We go for walks, ‘lift weights’ and do our stretches and bends.
- A kid’s colourful parachute can be used inside or outside of the house. There are a number of websites with variations of games that can be played. This helps with our arms, stretching, breathing, and co-operation.
- If you don’t have access to a parachute…then try things like folding pillowcases, towels, helping with bedding or folding laundry.
- There are other chores that are part of every day living yet help with ‘me in motion’: Emptying the dishwasher (bending stretching and balance), sorting and putting away laundry, throwing folded socks into the drawer, collecting the garbage (again bending, stretching and walking.)
- Mealtime is often a social time at home. Dinner can last a long time. It is not just about the eating. It is a time to laugh and talk about our day. It can also be a good time to get some exercise. Play a game of toss using empty medicine cups or a hacky sack ball. Don’t forget to clear the table first. This encourages stretching, arm and hand co-ordination and dexterity. Of course, there will be bouts of laughing and may require heavier breathing – both of which increases oxygen flow and relaxation).
- During the summer months everyone can help with the gardening. If you use a wheelchair, you can help with the flowerpots (urns), hanging baskets and railing baskets. It starts with the annual trip to the nursery where everyone picks out the flowers and plants that each person wants to grow. This trip gets us a healthy dose of Vitamin D, sunshine, fresh air and walking.
- In the cooler months and inclement weather we tend to stay indoors more. This doesn’t mean that you need to stay home though. There are plenty of malls to go to. A great chance to ‘people watch’ while you are socializing, walking and window shopping. Again, lots of exercise while having fun.
- You do not need to buy expensive exercise equipment. There are so many things that can that be used as exercise equipment. Going to the dollar store keeps the cost down considerably. Small soft balls can be used for throwing into pails or to each other. There are many inexpensive toys available that help with co-ordination as well as stretching and bending. Those Velcro catching mitts are great for catching and throwing.
If you are not sure what activity to do, just think about all things you used to like to do. Or, you can make a list of some new activities you might like to try now.
- But remember: be sure to wear the proper clothing and shoes for the type of exercise you choose.
- Check to see if you need special equipment to do some activities
- Check to see if a friend would like to join you… the buddy system makes it safer and more fun.
- Check the area that you are using to ensure that it is well lit, clutter free and accessible to you.
- Make sure you eat at least two hours before you exercise, drink plenty of water before and a little, if needed, during your exercise.
- Rest when you feel the need – PAIN IS NOT GAIN!!
- When exercising outside remember to check the weather and the air quality for your health.
- STRETCH, STRETCH, STRETCH before and after to relax your muscles.
Here are some places to check out for ‘Me in Motion’ Links
- Canada’s Physical activity Guide
- The Toronto fun guide (seniors section)
- Parks, forestry and recreation: Toronto parks
- Malls for walking
- Club 55+ in York and clubs in your neighbourhood
- Meet at the pool in your apartment building and have a group aqua fit with friends
- Use the exercise room in the apartment building and if you need special equipment then talk to the superintendent or a committee in the building to see if they can help to get the safe equipment for you (check with ODSP too)