Without a doubt, one of the major deterrents to fitness training in seniors are joint issues. The condition causing these issues is largely arthritic in nature, and while responsible for a lot of immobility, it can actually be managed with exercise to improve joint pain and gain the many benefits that exercise brings.
With proper exercise choices, you can exercise painlessly, and without injury. Be sure to check with your doctor before starting any exercise program to be sure that it is appropriate for your specific condition.
Armed with the promise of pain-free workouts, here are some of the best exercises for those with joint conditions listed in no particular order.
Strong leg muscles are important at any age, but particularly for seniors who are at a higher risk for falls and fractures. This exercise is easy to perform, and very low stress on the knee joint. To perform, sit on a chair, and slowly raise up, sit and repeat. In necessary, you may use the arm rests as an aid.
If the pain is manageable, walking is a great option. Walking is great cardiovascular exercise, and strengthens the leg muscles as well, albeit not as much as resistance training. A light, low intensity walk is fine, even if you can only do 10 minutes at a time.
For many arthritic seniors, swimming is one of the primary exercises they do. Why? Swimming is extremely low impact, and has a profound healing effect on the joints. For many getting into a pool and swimming some laps when they feel nagging joint aches improves the pain greatly and since swimming is also a full body workout, it is an excellent exercise option regardless of your affected joint.
Yoga should be considered one of the true universal exercises, as almost anyone, of any age – or with any affliction could perform beginner levels of yoga. Yoga is low impact, strengthens muscles and joints, and is a great escape from the stresses of everyday life. Yoga should be performed by everyone, regardless of the specific fitness goals one might have, but it can be especially useful for those with joint conditions as it improves range of motion, flexibility and is very low impact.
Having a joint condition could be a good excuse for not lifting weights, but it is definitely not smart. The fact is most seniors with joint conditions only have one affected joint. What this means is, if the knees are the issue, there is absolutely no reason why you should not perform free weight exercises for the arms, shoulders and back that do not involve the knees. Dumbbell curls are one such example.
Yes, dancing could be high intensity; but it can also be very low impact. Depending on the type of dance, movement speed and joint involvement differ.
Do This— Try Zumba classes twice weekly. Zumba is easy on the joints, and will prove quite the aerobic workout.
Using either an outdoor or a stationary cycle, this exercise is excellent for persons with joint conditions affecting the legs. Keep the resistance low, and try for at least 10 minutes per session. Cycling helps develop the quads and hamstrings, two muscle groups important in preventing falls.
Pilates exerts virtually zero stress on the joints, and is a great way to build core strength. Core strength is integral in maintaining an upright posture. Pilates helps to “train” your body to move in the most natural paths as they were meant to do, since years of poor form and posture condition the body in the wrong ways.
Standing Hip/ Leg Extension
This is another great exercise for people with joint conditions that affect the lower half of the body. This exercise builds the hamstrings, glutes, making it easier to walk, stand up, and is integral in preventing falls.
Do This— stand upright and hold on to a chair in front of you. In one smooth, slow motion raise the leg straight behind you, and return slowly to the start. Do 10 reps per set for 3 sets.