Physical activity for the elderly: 8 ideas for safe exercise


As we age, being sedentary becomes a growing risk factor. Of course, the benefits of physical activity are well established. In addition to improving the functional autonomy and mobility of the elderly, "regular physical activity can greatly reduce the risk of falls (by up to 17%)".

This year, however, times have changed. Group classes are becoming rarer, and some sports lend themselves less to social distancing and mask-wearing.

Nonetheless, the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP) recommends that people over the age of 65 "engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-to-high intensity physical activity each week". Even for older people with reduced mobility, exercise is essential for maintaining balance and preventing falls, according to CSEP experts.

The organization defines moderate-intensity activities as those where "seniors will sweat a little and breathe harder" (brisk walking, cycling, etc.). High-intensity activities, on the other hand, are those in which "seniors will sweat and be out of breath", such as swimming and cross-country skiing.

In the context of COVID-19, how can we ensure a safe environment for seniors who exercise? How can we encourage them to move regularly when everything around us remains uncertain?

Here are our 8 suggestions for sporting activities for seniors.

1. Bike

Whether in nature or on an indoor bike, this sport is an excellent way to maintain or improve cardiovascular health. Depending on their abilities and preferences, older people can go for a bike ride in the countryside with a friend. Alternatively, they can purchase a compact exercise bike to install at home for easy daily exercise. What's more, this option lets you watch a good TV series at the same time!

2. Tai-chi, yoga and virtual dance

Tai-chi, yoga and dance classes have gradually resumed, often in the park or in small groups. However, for the elderly or those at risk, these precautions are not always sufficient. Why not turn to online classes? With a little space in the living room and a tablet or computer screen, a world of dynamic content is available to all. A senior citizen can even take a yoga class with a family member, each in their own home.

3. Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing

The year has flown by for all sorts of reasons! This means that snow will soon be part of the Canadian landscape for many months to come. It's best to plan some outdoor sporting activities! Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are two perfect options for building stamina while breathing fresh air. Well-protected, an elderly person can share an active moment with a loved one without having to be in the same enclosed space.

4. End-of-season gardening

Before you break out the boots and coat, it's a good idea to get your yard (or balcony!) ready for winter. For those of you with a garden or backyard, it's a great opportunity to get moving and get some much-needed work done. Any excuse is a good one to enjoy the sunshine before the cold sets in: weeding, putting up winter protection, tidying up the garden shed, etc. In distancing mode, this can be done with a few friends!

5. Hiking and shopping

It's as simple as that, but no less effective! Walking of any kind is a remarkable way to get some exercise on a daily basis. For sedentary people, taking a stroll around the neighborhood or walking to the corner store is a good place to start. Once fitter, an elderly person may choose to take up brisk walking or nature hikes. The options and landscapes differ according to the season, making it all the more enjoyable.

6. Tennis

A sport that can be played both indoors and outdoors, tennis makes it easy to respect the rules of social distancing. This activity is often described as one of the most complete for body and mind, a significant advantage in times of COVID-19! Seniors who opt for tennis enjoy greater coordination, a healthier heart and increased flexibility without the risks of a group class.

7. Strength training and stretching

Any activity is preferable to inactivity. An elderly person who does a little strength training and stretching at home every week is moving in his or her own way. With the support of a health professional, everyone can follow a safe, personalized training program. After all, why not get out the equipment hidden in the cupboards and use the free space in the living room?

8. Exercise in bubble mode

Creating and maintaining a safe bubble with a few family members or friends opens up a ton of possibilities. Not only do seniors feel less isolated, but their bubble also enables them to take part in many more sporting activities. No need to go it alone! The risks are not inexistent, of course, but the benefits are hard to beat. For optimum safety, you should opt for a bubble for 5 to 10 people, which complies with all the health regulations in place.

Get moving! It's time to get moving and encourage your loved ones to do the same, whatever their age!

For people exercising outdoors or alone at home, our medical alert devices with GPS location and fall detection options offer all the security needed for an uncompromisingly active life.

* Always consult a physician about the ability of the elderly person in your life to participate in sports safely.