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Four Low-Impact Workouts to Love

With baby boomers aging in droves, it’s no surprise that in 2017 the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) listed “programs for older adults” among the top 20 fitness trends, along with “exercising with pets” and “wearable technology.” Exercise has huge health benefits at every age, but is particularly important for elders when it comes to improving blood pressure and bone density, and reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, osteoporosis, and certain cancers. Thankfully, there are no shortage of activities to do in Vancouver (both indoors and out) that won’t put undue pressure on aging joints and muscles. Here, we break down the benefits of four workouts that can help adults age the healthy way.

Yoga. One of Vancouver’s most popular activities, yoga’s slow, graceful poses are especially beneficial for adults 55 and over whose muscles tend to stiffen and whose joints are starting to lose their range of motion. Not only does yoga slow down the ageing process by helping older adults maintain flexibility and muscle strength, it also does wonders for calming the mind. Classes taken two to three times a week have been shown to help ward off depression and anxiety, improve blood flow and even help lessen the chances of a fall. Hint: Hatha and Yin styles of yoga are lower impact than Power and Bikram.

Dance. Low impact forms of dance, whether it be traditional ballroom classes such as the Foxtrot, Square and Swing, or the more contemporary Zumba, are a great way to work up a sweat—and have a ton of fun in the process. While dancing provides opportunities for social engagement, the coordination required to remember choreography has been shown to improve brain function. In fact, a 2011 study published in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience found that dancing helps improve cognitive flexibility, even for the highest-functioning adults. This is because it requires learning (often not a component of aerobic exercise or stretching workouts). Beginning January 13, 2018, The Opal Discovery Centre, located at City Square, Upper Shops, #130 – 555 West 12th Avenue, Vancouver, offers $5.00 drop-in Zumba on Saturdays from 12:15 – 1:15pm. Please call 604-871-9265 to register.

Cardio. Both cross-country skiing and elliptical training machines provide an excellent low-impact cardiovascular workout, which can be adjusted depending on the incline of hills (for cross-country skiing) and depending on the program you choose on the machine. These exercises strengthen both the upper and lower body simultaneously without putting too much stress on the knee, elbow and shoulder joints. Swimming is another great full-body workout that offers excellent cardiovascular exercise and muscle strengthening—minus the joint impact.

Low-Impact Weight Training. A number of community centres and gyms around Vancouver offer low-impact strength training classes which help build up muscle mass and improve cardio and balance. Inquire about getting a personal trainer to have the program tailored to your goals and health concerns. Also be sure to check that the trainers/instructors have experience coaching regular folks (not athletes) over 50.

Finally, before starting any new fitness program, WebMD has these words of advice: Get a health check-up beforehand, convey any health issues you have with your trainer or the health club manager, and don’t try to compete with younger members (or your former self!) In other words, listen to your body.