Staying active as we grow older isn’t always easy. The older we get, the more we are forced to acknowledge the tolls that activities we used to love can take on our bodies. High-impact workouts like running, skiing, and weight training can take a serious toll on our joints, a toll that only becomes greater as we get older.
Too much high-impact exercise can lead to joint injuries, stress fractures, and pulled muscles that can keep you off your feet for weeks or even months at a time. This is especially true if you don’t maintain perfect form throughout each high-impact exercise.
It’s important that we listen to our bodies as we grow older to prevent injuries. That doesn’t mean that we should give up on physical activity altogether at the first sign of soreness. We need to recognize when it’s time to slow down and switch to lower-impact workouts with lower risks of injury, especially as we get older and it takes our bodies longer and longer to recover.
There are plenty of fun, low-impact physical activities that can keep us in shape as we get older. Walking, swimming, water aerobics, cycling, and pilates are all great, safe ways to exercise for older adults.
One low-impact workout that is particularly safe for older adults and beneficial to back health is yoga.
Yoga is a great exercise for older adults because it focuses on balance and stability rather than explosiveness and brute strength. It combines physical poses, known as asanas, with mindfulness, controlled breathing, and meditation.
Yoga can provide the body with a range of benefits including:
- Stress relief
- Anxiety relief
- Improved posture
- Increased strength
- Improved blood pressure
- Enhanced mood
- Better sleep
- Better back health
- Relief from arthritis pain
- Better metabolism
One reason that yoga is so beneficial to older adults is its contribution to back health through controlled posing and stretching. Yoga is a very effective tool for relieving discomfort in our lower backs from excessive sitting. It can also have a profoundly positive impact on your day-to-day mood, and stress levels because of its focus on breathing techniques and meditation.
How to get started
Since the 1970s, yoga classes have been offered at gyms and fitness clubs around the country. There are roughly 6,000 yoga studios in the U.S. today. When choosing a yoga class, it’s important that you keep your physical goals and limitations in mind. Certain forms of yoga are more physically demanding than others, some ideal types of yoga for beginners and older adults include:
- Hatha Yoga
- Vinyasa Yoga
- Yin Yoga
- Restorative Yoga
For yoga veterans and older adults who seek to push their bodies to the limit (within reason), some good forms of yoga include:
- Bikram Yoga
- Ashtanga Yoga
- Iyengar Yoga
- Kundalini Yoga
If these forms of yoga surpass your physical limitations, many gyms and fitness clubs offer chair yoga classes. Chair yoga provides all of the same benefits as traditional yoga while decreasing the physical demand on the body by incorporating seated poses.
There are many ways older adults can stay in shape without overtaxing our bodies. With yoga, older adults can improve their back health, stress levels, sleep quality, and overall mood without putting their bodies at great risk of injury.
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