Top Benefits of Exercise for Seniors

April 25, 2019

Active at Any Age: Top Benefits of Exercise for Seniors

Brittany_class of senior exercise participants

“Motivation! Confidence! Self-esteem! Encouragement!” shouts a full room of seniors as they clap their hands in unison before their group work-out. These are the traits their fitness instructor Brittany Ramsey hopes to instill in them through her dynamic classes.

Brittany, founder of Take Back Your Life Online Personal Training and Development, has been teaching weekly exercise classes to participants of The Chicago Lighthouse Senior Program for the past four years. Her class is very popular, attracting over 30 students each session. She engages all of her students, the majority of whom are blind or visually impaired, by allowing them to take turns choosing exercises for her class to perform. When asked what keeps them coming week after week, the seniors typically respond saying things such as “She involves each one of us;” “It helps me get my day started;” and “It keeps me going.”

Brittany_senior exercise instructor

Brittany shares the immense benefits of regular exercise for seniors, as well as some exercises seniors can do from the comfort of their own homes without equipment.

Why is it important for seniors to stay active?

It’s so important for seniors to stay active because as you move you increase your flexibility and their strength in their limbs. Some seniors have limitations in what they can do. But the more they stay active it not only increases their heart health but it also increases their strength and their endurance in their muscles. Some of the biggest benefits for exercising and working out for seniors is that it improves their mental capacity, improves their overall lifestyle, just gives them so much joy. Exercise keeps them living young.

Brittany_Assisting participant who is blind

How often would you recommend seniors to exercise?

I would definitely recommend seniors to exercise at least 3 days out of the week for 30 minutes. Some seniors may not have 30 minutes, so even if you only have 10 minutes then I would say start there because something is better than nothing at all. Also, make sure to drink a lot of water in order to stay hydrated before, during, and after exercise.

How do you modify your exercises for clients who are blind, visually impaired or have other disabilities?

I modify the exercises so that everybody still feels comfortable and that way they know that they can still do it. For the seniors who are blind, to modify their exercise I show them the movements with my hands. So I touch them to help them find the correct form. For those who are hearing impaired, I make sure that I get closer to them when I’m demonstrating the exercise and I project my voice louder so that they can hear me. And that really helps because it shows them that whether you’re blind or hearing impaired you can still do the exercise. If there’s any exercise that is performed standing up I show them how to do that exact same muscle group sitting down in their chair. For instance, when we do jumping jacks, I show them how they can still move their arms and their legs sitting down in the chair.

Brittany_exercise_Leg raises

What advice for seniors who want to start getting active?

I would definitely encourage any senior who’s wanting to get active and doesn’t know where to begin to start by just moving in their chair. A lot of times we think that we have to be strenuous or do so much to exercise. However, within our whole hour of our exercise class, the majority of the exercises we do are in our chair. You can do so many movements while sitting in your chair that engage your arms, legs, and core.

What are some specific exercises seniors can do at home?

  • High knees: Standing or sitting, lift your knees up and down, alternating between the left knee and the right. This not only engages your core but it also strengthens your thigh muscles.
    Brittany_seniors high knees
  • Hands over head: Sit in a chair and clap your hands over your head. This engages your back muscles and arms.
  • Circle rotations: Sit in a chair, extend your arms to the side and rotate them in a circle. Do 20 reps rotating clockwise, and then 20 reps rotating counter clockwise.
  • Calf raises: Sit in a chair, put your feet on the ground and lift your heels up. This will strengthen your calf muscles.
  • Shoulder presses: Sit in a chair, make a fist with both hands and lift them up to your ears and then towards the ceiling. This will work your upper body and engage your shoulders.
    Brittany_seniors exercise_shoulder press

The next fitness class will be held on May 7 from 11:00 a.m. – noon at The Chicago Lighthouse. To register contact Laurine O’Donnell at (312) 997-3670.

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