Exercise is important to people of all ages. Older adults in particular need some way to exercise to avoid falling into lethargy and physical decline. That can be a tall task for seniors who suffer from limited mobility or struggle with health issues that restrict their movement. In many cases, yoga may be the only form of exercise that senior citizens and their caregivers can do together. Yoga combines meditative discipline and purposeful, deliberate movements aimed at strengthening muscles and improving joint flexibility. Be aware that there are different kinds of yoga, and it can get pretty vigorous, but yoga poses can and should always be modified according to a senior’s physical limitations.
Getting started in yoga is pretty simple, with few requirements in terms of equipment and no special clothing needed other than a form-fitting shirt that won’t slide up and down when you bend. Typical exercise pants are acceptable, and you’ll need a yoga mat for cushion and traction as you work though the various poses. (Yoga is practiced without shoes, so no need to splurge on expensive training shoes.)
One of the nice things about practicing yoga is that it can be done in the home where a senior and caregiver can learn together at their own pace. Yoga is particularly fun when learning alongside someone you know and trust. There are many instructional yoga videos on YouTube that can get you started, though it’s advisable to begin with a low-intensity program. You can also find yoga classes at yoga studios, community centers, or at a local gym or fitness club. Some older adults prefer doing “chair yoga,” a modified version designed to help you get the most out of it without risking injury.
Benefits for seniors and caregivers
Seniors and caregivers both face physical and mental challenges that require some form of relief. Older adults must find ways to stay physically active, and their caregivers need some form of relief from what can be a burdensome responsibility.
Joint pain is one problem that’s common to a great many older adults. Those who take part in yoga on a regular basis report a dramatic reduction in joint pain and less arthritis inflammation. Yoga’s deliberate poses stretch out your joints, which eases stress and tension (a great benefit for caregivers) and alleviates much of the stiffness that impedes a senior’s ability to stay physically active. In fact, yoga can make doing simple stretching much easier for older adults who may have difficulty just getting out of bed in the morning.
What the doctor ordered
Doctors are prescribing yoga for their older patients in increasing numbers thanks to medical evidence that yoga lowers blood pressure and can improve cardiovascular health. It’s an especially beneficial practice for people recovering from heart surgery or those fighting an ongoing battle against heart disease. Doctors have also reported an improvement in the condition of diabetes patients who do yoga. Some poses actually help organs function more efficiently by strengthening muscles that aid in pancreatic functioning, which is key in the management of type 2 diabetes.
Falls represent a major health threat for seniors. According to the National Council on Aging, a senior is treated for injuries resulting from a fall every 11 seconds. Yoga can help lessen the likelihood of in-home falls by improving balance as well as muscle strength and flexibility. Older adults and caregivers also reap the rewards of sharper mental acuity, better concentration, a more relaxed condition, and better sleep at night.
Yoga can be a blessing for seniors who suffer from reduced physical capacity and caregivers who live with the stress of watching over an older adult who requires round-the-clock attention. Just a few minutes of yoga every day can yield tremendous improvements in seniors and caregivers who cope with chronic physical and mental problems.
About the author: Jason Lewis is passionate about helping seniors stay healthy and injury-free. He created StrongWell to share his tips on senior fitness.