Exercise and diet are essential parts of a healthy lifestyle, and this fact does not change as we age, even if the reasons for staying in shape might have. The emphasis for seniors is on regular exercise versus intensity, so it’s important to find an exercise plan that you enjoy and are likely to stick with. Joint pain, fatigue, and other common age-related ailments can make exercise more challenging, and these concerns often drive seniors to a sedentary lifestyle. However, there are many very low-impact exercises that provide reduced stress on the muscles, joints and bones, which less mobile seniors can still enjoy and reap the benefits.

Some of the benefits of exercise for seniors are:

  • Improved posture and balance
  • Increased muscle strength and bone density
  • Reduced risk from certain diseases such as heart disease, osteoporosis, depression and diabetes
  • Increase in energy level
  • Greater independence in ability to perform activities in your daily life

Before you launch into an exercise regime, it’s of course important to check with your physician to ensure you’re healthy enough for exercise, and to see which exercises are best suited to your current fitness level. The exercises you once enjoyed, may no longer be suitable. Ask your physician to help you design an exercise plan that has some variety, combining strength, mobility and balance exercises to provide a good cross section of the above benefits.

Looking for some ideas for very low impact exercises that are available locally? Why not try out some of the following. Exercise is often best enjoyed with company so team up with a friend to make it more fun. Local exercise classes are also a great way to meet new people.

1. Chair Yoga. The benefits of yoga have long been recognized but if you have mobility problems, or have not exercised in a long time, it may be time to consider chair yoga. Chair yoga brings all the benefits of conventional yoga, including improved balance and flexibility, and stress reduction, but since all the stretches are done while sitting down, it’s very low impact and is easy on your joints. All levels of fitness can of course enjoy this very accessible form of yoga. Chair yoga classes are offered at both the Darien Senior Center and the Darien YMCA.

2. Tai Chi. While it originated as an ancient martial art in China, over the years Tai Chi has transformed into a graceful form of meditative exercise that is now used for stress reduction while increasing flexibility and balance. Often described as meditation in motion, it involves a series of slow gentle flowing movements and physical postures, and controlled breathing. Tai Chi classes are also offered at both the Darien Senior Center and the Darien YMCA.

3. Walking. This has to be one of the most accessible and free forms of exercise. Darien is blessed with some real gems of parks and woodlands to go walking, but you don’t need to go far – you can enjoy the lovely Spring blossoms by simply stepping out of your front door and taking a trip around your neighborhood block. Take your cane if you need help with balance. If you want to venture further, but are looking for a flat surface to walk on, invite a buddy and go for a walk around Tilley Pond Park in the center of Darien or the relatively new Highland Farm (560 Middlesex Road). Be sure to wear a good pair of lace up walking shoes, bring a water bottle, and check the weather before you head out.