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October 8, 2016 - TCO

3 simple ways to help aging parents stay active

Older adults stop exercising for a many different reasons. Some think it’s too late to start exercising or that their body can’t handle it after surgery. Some have medical conditions such as osteoporosis, osteoarthritis or other chronic joint pain that makes exercising too painful and difficult.

But we have great news! It’s never too late to start exercising, and it’s actually getting more exercise that will help ease chronic pain and increase mobility.

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), a study of frail, wheelchair-bound nursing home residents in their 80s and 90s who participated in a weightlifting program showed significant improvement in their strength and overall functional abilities, proving it’s never too late to start trying new activities.

As our parents begin to age, we need to be ready to help them stay active and healthy with different types of exercises for older adults. That is why we’ve compiled a helpful list of ways you can help them continue to exercise regularly, strengthen bones and muscles, maintain and improve mobility, and continue to live healthy, energetic lives.

Create a walking schedule, and join in!

Physicians recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity per day, and a brisk walk is something that almost everyone is capable of doing every day, even in the winter. Help your parents reap the benefits of walking for seniors! Plan out a walking schedule with time set aside for a short walk every day, then schedule occasional longer walks with friends and family.

We all know grandchildren are a seemingly endless source of energy. Why not set aside a day or two every month for grandparents and grandkids to exercise together, via a long walk around the neighborhood, a trip to the local park or just playing in the yard?

And, of course, pets also are a great reason for parents to take walks, spend time outside and consistently stay active.

When walking gets old, mix it up!

Exercise for seniors should be fun, so help your parents mix it up. If they don’t already have a garden, help them build one. Maintaining and tending to a garden can be moderate exercise, and many consider it an especially enjoyable hobby. Fun tip: When little kids visit, hide lollipops in the garden for them to find!

During the summer and fall, there’s almost always yard work to be done. Rather than hiring someone else to do it, encourage your parents to rake and bag leaves, trim bushes and plant flowers. Of course, they should always be safe and not push themselves too hard.

The Twin Cities are teeming with excellent bike trails, and a casual bike ride can be the perfect way to mix up the exercise routine. Did you know Google Maps can provide bicycle-specific directions? If biking isn’t an option, hiking is another great activity in Minnesota. Several scenic city and state parks have light-intensity paths perfect for older adults. For instance, have you considered taking a hike near Hastings? Minnehaha Park, the Lake Harriet Loop and the Mississippi Flats are just a few more of the beautiful local landmarks worth exploring.

Finally, if your parents are avid golfers, encourage them to ditch the cart and walk the course. On average, it’s more than a 5-mile walk for 18 holes.

Make it social!

Exercise is a social activity, and it’s usually more fun to exercise with others. The Twin Cities are home to many workout groups, organized activities and dedicated classes for older adults. Get your parents involved.

For $5 a year, the Minnesota Walking Meetup organizes fun, scenic walks around Minneapolis-St. Paul.

Check your local city or school district community activities websites for senior fitness classes such as water aerobics, Zumba and 5K training.

Twin Cities Orthopedics Maple Grove offers free fitness classes for adults of all ages and fitness levels, including “TCO Back to Basics,” a class geared toward those who have undergone previous surgeries, including total knee and total hip replacements, prior injuries, pre-op individuals or those just looking for a low-impact standing-exercise routine in a group setting.

Regular exercise can help improve every aspect of your parents’ lives, cognitively, physically and emotionally.

Encourage your loved ones to stay active and try to make yourself available to join in the fun. Remember, even if they haven’t exercised in years, it’s never too late to start!