If you are wiped out after spending the day with your grandchildren, perhaps you need to explore some senior fitness strategies. These seven disciplines are perfect for giving you more energy and stamina, so you can chase that toddler and play catch with a Little Leaguer. I've tried all but tai chi and found that they are all relatively easy and enjoyable. Click on each link for more information. Also take a look at my tips for making any exercise more effective
. If you feel in need of a change, try these five fun fitness activities
that you can enjoy with or without the grandchildren. (Of course, you should consult your doctor before beginning any fitness program.)
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When I was working full-time, yoga was the only exercise class that I could look forward to and enjoy at the end of a workday. While it is great for building strength and increasing flexibility, it is also slow-paced and low-impact, which is probably why it's a favorite senior fitness activity. Most of us can benefit from yoga's emphasis on breathing techniques. Yoga classes typically include relaxing music; some even use aromatherapy. Class usually closes with wonderful relaxation exercises. If you are out of shape, it's easy to work at a low level. If you are in good condition, you will still find some of the poses challenging.
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Water fitness class is my new love. I like that I can get a good workout while staying cool and enjoying the therapeutic effects of water. My water class always incorporates a strong aerobic element. We run, jump and tread water. Since we are working against the resistance of the water, the heart rate goes up, but the water protects against falls and injuries. We also use foam weights for strength training and noodles for ab work. Another good thing about water fitness is that you can do it on the road. If your hotel, condo or RV park has a pool, you can use the moves you learned in class and burn up those extra calories that we sometimes consume on holiday. Water exercise has become so popular that you may be joined by other enthusiasts.
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I confess. I don't always look forward to Pilates class. Some of the poses and moves are very challenging, and I usually have sore abs the next day. Pilates is a form of exercise which builds core strength while increasing flexibility and creating long, supple muscles. I do mat Pilates, but Pilates can also be done on special equipment. Pilates is very effective in strengthening the back; however, if you have pre-existing back problems or osteoporosis, you will need to be very careful. Pilates instructors are trained in modifications for different conditions and fitness levels. My class always closes with a relaxing cooldown. If I don't always look forward to Pilates class, I always feel both relaxed and virtuous afterwards.
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Walking is the gold standard in senior fitness. You already know how to do it, although you may need a few tips. You can do it almost anywhere, and a good pair of shoes is the main thing you need. Walking does it all. It's good for losing weight, adding muscle, building bone and increasing aerobic capacity. A few strategies will lessen your chances of injury. Always stretch before you walk, and avoid walking on concrete if you have a choice. Some people prefer walking on a treadmill to walking outdoors, especially if they live in areas where the weather is extreme, but for me, being outdoors is the best part. I especially enjoy walking on vacation. It's the best way to explore a new city and an outstanding way to enjoy the great outdoors.
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Some seniors feel that weight training is too intense for them, but by using lighter weights and more repetitions, anyone can have success with weight training. Weight training has been proven to reduce the symptoms and slow the progress of a number of chronic conditions, including arthritis, diabetes, osteoporosis, obesity and depression. Good form is important in weight training, so if you've never worked out with weights, be sure to get help from an instructor. Many people enjoy going to a gym, but you can also work out at home, beginning with a few pairs of dumbbells in different sizes. Some experts suggest working out with improvised weights, such as cans of food, but real weights are easier for older people to grip.
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Here's another confession. Although I love my water class, I don't really like swimming. It's getting water in my eyes, ears and nose that turns me off. One of my friends is a swimmer, though, and she has the most awesome back muscles. I may just have to buy goggles, a nose clip and ear plugs and give it a whirl. I do know that swimming uses almost all of the muscles in the body. It's low-impact, and it builds aerobic capacity as well. It's another exercise that you can probably work in on vacation, and if you have older grandchildren, you may enjoy swimming with them, rather than just splashing around in the pool as I do. If you've always wanted to swim but don't know how, it's never too late to take swimming lessons.
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Tai chi classes are not offered in my city, but if they were, I'd be first in line. I have a friend who does tai chi, and what he has shown me is fascinating. Tai chi is sometimes called a soft martial art. The movements are typically slow. The feet are firmly planted, and balance and control are key. Although some tai chi enthusiasts see it as a true martial art, others use it as a benefit to health, and still others are fans of its aesthetic qualities. It requires little space and can be done with a group or alone. Tai chi is said to work through a relaxing of muscular tension. I'm accustomed to thinking of exercise as a tightening of the muscles. Having to relax them first--that's a nicely enigmatic idea that I'd love to explore.
See also tips for healthful eating.