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Senior Care - Don't Give Up on Exercise!

Many seniors and disabled adults give up on physical exercise because of stiffer joints, decreased flexibility and other health conditions. Sometimes you just don't know where to start. Perhaps exercising seems too boring or too difficult. However, exercise is critical for all seniors and is vital for healthy aging. The good news is that with so many forms of exercise available, there is a type of exercise that is appealing and possible for everyone.

One excellent form of physical activity for seniors and many disabled adults is aquatic exercise. Water exercise solves a number of impediments for seniors. Aquatic exercise is a low-impact activity that takes the pressure off your bones, joints and muscles. Water offers natural resistance, which helps strengthen your muscles. You can even do aquatic exercise if you don't know how to swim. Ask your physician if you might benefit from water activity. You might start with water walking. In water that's about waist-high, walk across the pool swinging your arms like you do when walking on land. Avoid walking on your tiptoes, and keep your back straight. Tighten your abdominal muscles to avoid leaning too far forward or to the side.

To increase resistance as your hands and arms move through the water, wear hand webs. Water shoes can help you maintain traction on the bottom of the pool. Once you're comfortable walking in waist-high water, try walking in deeper water. As you walk, swing your arms. Keep your back straight, and tighten your abdominal muscles to avoid leaning too far forward or to the side. To help you stay above the water, you might place a water noodle between your legs. Make sure the noodle is higher in back than in front. If you don't know how to swim, wear a flotation vest or float belt in deep water.

Aquatic exercise can be fun at any age, size, or fitness level whether you try it on your own or sign up for a class. Many local YMCA locations or health clubs offer inexpensive water aerobic or water movement classes that are tailored for seniors. Jump in! The water's fine!

Source: Excerpted from Mayo Clinic Foundation for Medical Education and Research

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