A University of Michigan review analyzed studies of yoga among older adults and concluded it can boost bone mineral density, increase physical fitness, relieve osteoarthritis pain, and even help improve sleep and depression. Another 2017 study published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine found that older adults who attended yoga classes twice weekly for eight weeks experienced 48 percent fewer falls in the six months after the sessions began, compared to the prior six months. Peek says that could be related to how yoga “strengthens your core, enhances your stability and makes you more aware of how you move.”
Hatha yoga, restorative yoga, and yoga with chair exercises are usually best for older adults, as they’re slower paced, she adds. You can find a variety of free online classes geared toward beginners or older adults at sites like AARP’s, as well as ymca360.org, yogawithadriene.com or silversneakers.com (which is free through select Medicare plans).
3. Stand straighter with 3 key moves
Posture tends to decline with age, as the discs in your spine harden and lose flexibility, causing you to tilt forward (a condition known as senile kyphosis). But some simple stretching exercises can slow down this process by improving spinal flexibility, says Gil Kentof, a chiropractor in Franklin, Tennessee. He recommends these three exercises, which you should do two to three times a week.
- Pelvic Elevation. Lie on your back on the carpet with your knees bent. Lift your butt off the floor to create a bridge with your back. Hold this position for three seconds and then lower back down flat. Repeat two sets of 10 repetitions.
- Knee-to-Chest. Lie on your back and pull one knee up toward your opposite shoulder as you pull it toward your chest. Hold for five seconds. Repeat with the other leg. Do this five times with each leg, by pulling the knee up toward the opposite shoulder and holding for a good stretch in the hip area.
- Snow Angel. Lie on your back with your arms to your sides and your palms up. Move your hands up toward your head, keeping arms as flat to the floor as possible. This will help keep your upper back posture from dropping forward.
4. Turn your walk into a workout
Intervals, or short bursts of more intense exercise, added on to a moderate workout have proven longevity benefits. You can reap the potentially life-lengthening rewards simply by alternating 30 to 60 seconds of faster walking to your regular daily strolls. Those in better shape can try adding short bits of jogging into a brisk walk, suggests Peeke.
When Mayo Clinic researchers studied the effects of interval training on people ages 65 to 80, they found that some of the age-related deterioration of muscle cells had been reversed. The study, published in Cell Metabolism, found that this type of training even triggered the growth of new muscle, counteracting the natural muscle loss that occurs with growing older. It can benefit your brain, too: Older adults who exercised using short bursts of activity saw up to a 30 percent improvement in memory performance compared to those who did a more moderate workout, according to a 2019 study published in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism.
5. Find a virtual fitness buddy
If your basement workout’s feeling pretty ho-hum by now, synching up with a buddy over Zoom or FaceTime to lift weights or do cardio together could help provide the encouragement to help you stay active in 2021, says Jaclyn Maher, assistant professor in the department of kinesiology at the University of North Carolina Greensboro. “It’s a good way to hold yourself accountable, and you can also try different fitness apps such as FitOn to schedule workouts at the same time that you can do together virtually,” she says.
One Michigan State University study, for example, found that working out with a virtual partner — human or computer generated — increased motivation to complete exercise. Making your workout buddy someone close to your age seems to provide the greatest benefit: A 2018 study published in the journal Health Psychology found that older adults are more likely to stick to an exercise program if they do it with people in their age group.