How to Help Your Parents Stay ActiveHow to Help Your Parents Stay Active

Exercise is good for you at any age, but it’s especially important as we get older. Regular activity—especially aerobic exercise and strength training—can help older adults maintain muscle mass, healthy blood pressure, bone density, balance, and more. If you’re caring for your parents, here are some ideas to encourage them to stay active—especially if they tend to find reasons not to exercise.

You’re never “too old” to exercise

Your parents may not be running marathons at 92, but as long as their doctor OKs it, there’s no reason for them not to do something. In fact, 30 minutes of jogging at least five times a week has been shown to slow the aging process at the cellular level. The study that yielded that information also found that regular, intense exercise can delay cellular aging by as much as seven years.

You don’t have to be “in shape” to benefit from exercise

Researchers say that seniors don’t have to be fit to benefit from regular exercise. A recent study found that obese adults age 70 to 89 who followed a prescribed fitness program had 18% fewer instances of major mobility impairment compared to a group who didn’t exercise. That’s important, especially for seniors who want to live at home as long as possible. Mobility problems are a major reason why seniors end up moving to assisted living or a nursing home.

You can exercise anywhere, almost for free

Your parents’ budget doesn’t need to stand in the way of their fitness. The only equipment they really need is a good pair of walking shoes and some comfortable clothes. The National Institute on Aging’s Go4Life senior fitness portal offers tips on getting and staying active. There’s also a free membership feature that lets users set fitness goals, track their progress, and build workout plans at home.

Workout buddies are easy to find

If your parent will only work out with friends, see what’s available at your local rec center, senior community center, and JCC. Many suburban neighborhoods also have informal walking groups, and you might be surprised by how many churches host yoga classes. If your parents’ neighborhood has a presence on Nextdoor or Facebook, start there to help them find workout buddies.

The weather doesn’t matter all that much

There will always be times when it’s too hot, cold, icy, or rainy to exercise outdoors. Lots of shopping malls welcome senior walking groups who want to avoid bad weather, and these groups are a great way to make exercise a social activity, too. No mall? No problem. Between streaming fitness videos on Netflix and free senior workout videos on YouTube that your folks can do at home, there’s always something they can do to stay active, no matter what’s going on outside.

New senior communities can be great places for fitness buffs

Despite the drive that most of us have to age at home, new and newly renovated senior communities have some of the most cutting-edge fitness centers around and offer personal trainers, classes for all fitness and mobility levels, onsite pools, and more. If your folks are serious about getting and staying fit, these communities may be a better option than staying in a neighborhood where there aren’t many fitness options.

Learn more about senior living options in major cities around the country and in assisted living at SeniorAdvisor.com.

Casey Kelly-Barton is an Austin-based freelance writer whose childhood was made awesome by her grandmothers, great-grandmother, great-aunts and -uncles, and their friends.

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