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4 simple low-impact exercises for seniors

Retirement Living Lifestyle Wellbeing
03 December 2020

In Australia, we have one of the longest life expectancies in the world. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, boys born in 2016-18 can expect to live to over 80 and girls to over 84. We’ve come a long way since the late 1800s when boys were not expected to live past the aged of 47 and girls, 50. Over the past two decades, the number of people aged 85 years and over increased by 117%.

We’re all living longer and being in good physical shape is key to making the most of these extra years. By being as fit as we can be, we can continue doing the things in life that make us happy for as long as we can.

Australian guidelines recommend adults over the age of 65 years be physically active for at least 30 minutes each day. Based on the 2017-18 National Health Survey, more than two thirds of adults aged 65 and over didn’t participate in sufficient physical activity.

According to the World Health Organization, physical inactivity is one of the most common and persistent contributors to poor health in the world. Some estimates suggest a lack of physical activity could be the cause of about half the physical decline associated with old age.

By increasing and maintaining physical activity, sedentary older people have the potential to benefit more than any other sector of the population.

In an interview with The Sydney Morning Herald, Professor Robin Daly, chair of exercise and ageing at Deakin University warned that as we age, exercise is crucial to support muscle mass, strength and function. 

Prof Daly also says muscle helps older Australians reduce their risk of fractures and illness and helps maintain mobility to keep up with everyday activities like walking, climbing the stairs or getting up from a chair.

These are all activities we take for granted, but without regular exercise we can begin to experience a range of health problems that affect our ability to do these everyday things the older we get.

Introduce low-impact exercise into your day

Simple, low-impact exercises are a great option for nearly everyone and can be adapted to all fitness levels.

Before getting started with a new exercise routine, it’s important to always consult your GP. Remember to start slowly and don’t push yourself too hard.

If you’re just getting started and the recommended 30 minutes of exercise a day is a little daunting, try breaking it up into 3 x 10 minute mini-sessions of exercise throughout the day. The main thing is to make a start, and then keep trying.

When done regularly (for 30 minutes on most days), moderate intensity, low-impact exercises can be very effective at improving your fitness, strength, confidence, coordination, balance and mood.

Try these low-impact exercises for seniors (or anyone!)

In an earlier edition of The Good Life Magazine we spoke with Associate Professor Paul Stapley from the University of Wollongong about the effects of ageing on our coordination and balance. He says that getting older should not be associated with a sedentary lifestyle and shared some ways seniors can incorporate low-impact exercises into their day.

  1. Walking – Our bodies are built to walk and we don’t do enough of it! Try and build more walking into your everyday activities, or plan a brisk walk with a friend to make it a social occasion as well.
  2. Swimming – This is a great form of exercise that is gentle on your joints. The water overcomes gravity supporting your weight and helps relieve stresses. Swimming can also be another great social activity.
  3. Sit to stand – The action of sitting to standing is often an activity that can lead to falls, so practicing this movement as part of your exercise routine is a good way to improve muscle strength and help prevent falls.
  4. Gardening – Australia has great weather to be out and about in, making this a great form of exercise too. Heavy gardening, such as digging or shovelling can be an effective form of exercise.

Note: It’s always best to consult your doctor for a plan that is best-suited to your individual needs. Remember to always start your exercise program at a low level and progress slowly – especially if you haven’t exercised in a long time. Exercise that is too intense, too quickly may increase your risk of injury.

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