Older adults in Canada are more likely than any other age group to live a sedentary lifestyle, and winter weather can make it even harder to stay active. With less daylight, it can be harder to feel motivated to get moving. Snow and slush can also make it difficult and potentially dangerous to walk outside as slips and falls may occur more frequently. The good news is, there are many activities that can be done in the home or at a recreation centre or gym.
Try Nordic walking
Nordic walking uses poles like those used in cross-country skiing. This style of walking may provide a better total body workout than regular walking because it incorporates the arms and upper body. While being perceived as less challenging, Nordic walking can lead to a greater increase in cardiac fitness and to burning more calories.
Walk to the beat at an indoor track or on a treadmill
Don’t let the winter weather keep you from doing the things you love. As an alternative to walking outdoors, consider walking on an indoor track, or on a treadmill. Lace up your shoes and turn on the tunes! Research shows that walking to a steady beat or music helps improve walking speed, stride length, walk rhythm and symmetry. How fast should you be able to walk? Older adults should be able to manage most day-to-day activities with a walking speed of about one metre per second. That’s roughly one kilometre every 16 minutes.
Dive in to aquatic exercise
Visit the pool at your local ‘Y’ or sports/recreation centre for a low impact workout that’s gentle on joints, bones and muscles. Research evidence suggests that moderate to high intensity aquatic exercise is at least as effective as land-based exercise for improving strength, endurance, flexibility and physical function.
Using virtual reality gaming to break a sweat
Virtual reality computer-based technology, such as Nintendo Wii, lets people interact with on-screen activities and objects that simulate the real world. “Exergames” have the added benefit of encouraging physical activity in people of all ages and are accessible, enjoyable and safe. Using a Wii system at home can help develop better balance and may give many older adults more confidence to be active, which may result in a higher quality of life.