You’re never too old to get back into shape. Exercise offers folks of all ages a slew of physical, emotional and mental health benefits. Now, that doesn’t mean you need to be hitting the gym like Schwarzenegger (though if you can, more power to you). Even light to moderate exertion can be beneficial as long as you do it regularly — preferably daily, according to the CDC.
While walking and gardening are the most popular forms of exercise for people over 65, they’re far from the only options. Practicing yoga can help improve balance, coordination, muscle tone and stamina while requiring little more than some free floor space. This half-inch thick sweat-resistant yoga mat ($16) from Amazon offers comfort and stability, lessening the chances of a slip and fall while transitioning into Virabhadrasana II. Plus it’s durable enough to easily wash with soap and water after use. If stability is an issue, be sure to pick up a foam support block or two as well ($11). These give you something to lean on if you’re not flexible enough to reach the ground during a pose. Also be sure to keep a chair nearby for added support and to enable you to perform variant poses, collectively known as Chair Yoga, designed specifically to reduce strain on your joints.
Once you’ve got your equipment squared away, it’s time to find a yogi. If you’re just starting out or don’t feel comfortable trying the practice out on your own, don’t worry, there are a bunch of resources for you both on and offline. For folks interested in taking a group class, check with your local YM/WCA, JCC, senior center or yoga studio. If, on the other hand, you’re hoping to restart or expand your practice, YouTube offers a number of instructional videos and routines. Yoga With Adriene, The Mat Project and DoYogaWithMe are all widely followed YouTube accounts that offer lessons geared specifically for older adults.
Perhaps getting sweaty in a hot room with a bunch of strangers doesn’t sound all that great. But you know where you can’t sweat? In the pool. Aquacise classes offer strong cardio benefits without the joint stress that land-based aerobics classes offer. Plus you get to play with pool noodles. Most facilities will have loaner equipment on hand, but if borrowing gear makes your skin crawl, you can pick up everything you need in the form of the Aquastrength Aquatic Fitness Ultimate Bundle ($200) from Amazon and just tote it to the pool and back.
For those not interested in group classes, that’s fine too. You’ve earned the right to be curmudgeonly. But that doesn’t give you a pass to be a couch potato. If you’re going to sit, you might as well get some exercise from it by using a chair gym ($150). Essentially a folding chair with integrated resistance bands that offers more than 50 exercises all of which can be performed from a seated position. Or, if you don’t want to have to assemble a whole thing, pick up a couple of light resistance bands ($10+) and a set of instructional DVDs ($30). So long as you have a sturdy chair on hand, you can get your reps in.
Ergometers, better known as rowing machines, provide an unrivaled full-body cardio workout. The problem is, they tend to be quite pricey and if your form is wrong, you can easily exacerbate existing back and joint problems. Stationary bikes, on the other hand, won’t work your upper body, but you can still get a solid cardio workout one like this recumbent exercise bike from Marcy ($155). It has a low, step-through design so you’re not throwing out your hips trying to get onto the saddle. The recumbent position further reduces strain on your lower back and joints. And at $155, you won’t have to dip into the grandkids’ holiday presents fund to pay for it. Heck, you can even craft your own DIY Peloton (ask your kids what that is) by combining the recumbent bike with an iPhone or iPad and this free iOS app.
Then again, where’s the fun in spending your senior years hanging around the house when there’s still so much to get out and see? If you’re still mobile enough to not need a cane or walker but would feel more confident having a walking stick in hand, check out the Activator poles from Urban Poling ($110). Designed by an occupational therapist, these walking aids “may be beneficial for post/hip knee surgery, injuries, Parkinson’s, stroke, MS, chronic pain, cancer rehab, spinal conditions and older adults,” according to the product website.