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Great ways for stairlift users to keep fit and healthy

16th May 2014

This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.

Those who use a stairlift solution at home because of mobility difficulties may find exercise more difficult than others, but this should not mean that keeping active is ruled out altogether. Exercise is very important for maintaining good health, and keeping fit and moving joints regularly can even reduce pain and improve function among those who have various types of arthritis. It also helps improve life expectancy, reduce blood pressure and manage body weight. One study even found that previously inactive men who became active at the age of 50 were 49% more likely to survive to the age of 60 than men who remained inactive.

CMO guidelines suggest that adults should be active daily, with at least 150 minutes of moderate activity throughout the week. This is the same for those over 65, although it is suggested that activities should include those to help improve balance and co-ordination twice a week. Knowing what kinds of exercise those with mobility difficulties can do is the first step towards maintaining a healthy lifestyle; here, we present some ideas for how those with limited mobility can keep active and enjoy sports at any time of the year so no matter how cold or hot it is exercise doesn’t need to be left behind.

Winter
There is a common misconception that it is too cold to exercise in the winter, particularly among the older generation who feel the cold far easier than their younger family members, but this is far from the case. There are plenty of sports that are suitable for the winter and continuing exercise throughout the colder months not only maintains fitness, but raises the heart rate, keeping you fit and warm.

Dancing

Dancing can help improve balance, muscle strength and general health of the heart and lungs, as well as being fun! Local classes are great for being taught steps by a professional and for meeting others with a love of dancing, and can incorporate balance exercises and stretching exercises alike. Across the country there are dance classes such as Zumba Gold that have been specially created for those who are older or who have limited mobility, which can help keep the dance class at the right pace so that everyone has a great time.

Zumba offers its Zumba® Gold program to provide a workout perfect for the active older adult, as well as those just starting their journey to a fit and healthy lifestyle. The dance-fitness brand is committed to serving the "active aging" population of more than 40 million people in order to promote health and wellness and increase overall quality of life.

“The Zumba Gold program incorporates the contagious world rhythms already popular with the 15 million people taking Zumba classes each week, but is performed at a lower intensity that is safe and effective for all ages. The program takes into account specific elements of aging such as arthritis, blood pressure, heart disease and bone density, and its dance moves are adjusted to fit these needs. Some licensed Zumba Gold instructors even adapt their workout by incorporating a chair for those who are sedentary or wheelchair bound. The program’s design includes special attention to depth perception, potential hearing and vision impairments, and protection of knees, ankles, hips and other joints.”

-      Zumba

Swimming

The supportiveness of water and buoyancy that is felt when swimming puts little pressure on joints, making it a great elderly exercise option. The swimmer can get some great exercise that works most muscles of the body whilst feeling completely supported. One of the great benefits of swimming is that swimmers can exercise at their own pace – whether vigorous or gentle – and most swimming pools have big and spacious walk in shower facilities that are easy to use. Aqua aerobics classes are also a great form of exercise as the water can make movement effortless when otherwise it would be strenuous.

Spring
Spring is one of the best times to embark on an exercise plan. With the temperature being just right there is nothing better than getting outdoors and making the most of these great exercises in amongst the blossom.

Tai chi

Tai chi is great for improving balance and the stretching exercises require slow and steady movements; it is a low-intensity martial art, which is good for those with limited mobility. Muscle strength exercises and balance exercises, particularly in the legs, can help reduce the risk of falling at home, and tai chi classes also present a great opportunity to meet other people who could be in similar situations.

Near You have a range of websites that provide a wealth of information on martial arts, Pilates, dance, and yoga, as well as listing classes that can be searched for using postcodes, with a range of class types, from beginner to seniors. Here is some advice they have for older people looking to exercise.

Give it a go. There are many classes which cater for older clients such as Zumba Gold and OAP classes. These are great for easing you into your first session and mean you will be with like-minded others of similar ability to you. You won't be forced to do anything you don’t want to, and you can go at your own pace in your class. The teacher will be happy you have come along and will strive to make your experience as pleasant and as comfortable for you as possible.

At Near You, we witness a range of ages trying out different fitness styles to keep active and flexible. This ranges from the starting age of around 4 all the way up to people in their 70s and 80s. Did you know the world's oldest yoga teacher is 96? And she still teaches classes!

We have a range of instructors on our sites which offer specific classes for seniors, OAPs and over 60s, as well as classes which can be attended by any age at a beginner level. Don't be scared about trying a new class – your instructor will be very willing to help tailor the session to your individual needs and ability. Now more classes than ever are aimed at seniors to give them a better quality of life.

-      Near You

Gardening

Although it may not be a traditional form of exercise, studies such as this one have shown that this kind of light activity can lead to longer life expectancy because of improved general health. Working on your garden could not only give satisfaction in terms of creating a beautiful home, but it can also provide an opportunity to exercise the heart and keep hands moving. The range of gardening tasks is wide and can include anything from mowing the lawn and digging up weeds to trimming bushes and planting flower bulbs.

Summer
Some may think it is too hot to exercise in the summer months and while it is dangerous for the elderly to overdo it when the weather is warmer, there are still plenty of exercises that can be carried out comfortably in the summer sun.

Cycling

Cycling is a great form of exercise; however, those with limited mobility should take extra care. It is a good idea to only go as far as you feel comfortable and to cycle with a friend so that help is always close at hand. There are many great cycling routes across the UK, many of which take riders along well-maintained paths through beautiful countryside. Avoiding cycling on roads as much as possible is advisable. Sustrans' interactive map of bicycle routes can provide some good ideas.

Autumn
Embracing the great outdoors in autumn can bring you back to your youth. Enjoying the autumnal colours of the trees and your local environment can make for the best of pastimes, and raising the heart rate slightly can improve both mood and fitness.

Walking

As a free activity that can begin as soon as you step outside the front door, walking is fantastic exercise. Recent studies, such as this one, have shown that even slow walking has plenty of health benefits, with regular exercise being of greater worth than more vigorous and less frequent exercise. Most people can have a go at walking for exercise, especially as this low-impact activity puts little pressure on the joints and can easily include stretching exercises.

For those who want some company on their walk there are numerous schemes that join local walkers together, which can be very social and rewarding. Walking for Health is a great scheme that helps its members stay active with plenty of motivational tips and advice. Simply take a look at their website to find a local walk scheme near you.

Similarly, the British walking charity Ramblers hosts numerous group walk programmes across the country that offer a fun and safe way of exploring the great outdoors and staying fit and healthy.

This includes the health walk schemes; local schemes can be found by entering your postcode here.

Walking is an accessible form of physical activity for those who, because of age, long-term conditions, mobility problems or low levels of fitness, find other activities too challenging — an important way to counterbalance the tendency for physical activity levels to decrease with age.

Setting yourself personal goals can really help to keep you focused and keep you walking. Make sure that they are challenging, but realistic – and that you set a time limit so that you can tell if you’ve achieved them. For example…

•          I will attend at least three Walking for Health walks per month for the next four months.

•          I will walk to the shops once a week for the next month.

Write down your goals and let people know about them – that way you can track how you are doing and will have people encouraging you to achieve them.

And if you do achieve your goals, make sure you reward yourself – and then set some more!

-      Ramblers

Fit as a Fiddle
This Age UK programme is specially designed to help older people stay healthy through leading a healthy lifestyle. The nationwide programme has spent the last six years encouraging elderly exercise, healthy eating and general wellbeing. The team work with national and regional organisations to reach out to individuals; click here to find out more about Fit as a Fiddle and to contact your local team.

Image Credit: garryknight (flickr.com), Near You