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Staying active in winter poses challenges for seniors

Posted October 07, 2021 in Articles


With winter comes holidays, hot chocolate and cooler weather. But with cooler weather comes challenges. Because of icy and snowy weather, it can be challenging to stay active, especially for seniors.

Tracy Derschau, life enrichment coordinator at Menorah Park in Beachwood, and Diane Menges, wellness coordinator at Judson in Cleveland, said it is still important to stay as active as possible in the winter despite challenges it may bring.

Derschau said one of the silver linings of the COVID-19 pandemic is that it is easier than ever to be active at home due to increased focus on creating options based on necessity. Technology has played a strong role in being a creative use of space and time, she said.

“First and foremost, we need to stay on the move,” Derschau said. “Get the joints moving, even by just doing a few small exercises throughout the day. While I teach two classes at Wiggins Place, I take that important opportunity among others to remind folks that if they find they are sitting around more and watching their favorite shows, commercial breaks are a great time to do some exercises.”

Derschau said they also developed an exercise course throughout the building to help with independent exercise. If you are reading, when you come to the end of a chapter of a book or finish a section of the newspaper, that’s a great time to stretch and do some exercises.

Activities you can do at home are just basic exercises that you could do anywhere, Menges said. You can do things like squats and lunges or walk up and down the stairs for a good cardio exercise, she said. She also recommends watching an exercise video or listening to good music to dance and move to.

“I encourage people, all the time, to just put on music they really like and move to it,” Menges said. “That can be a good cardio and strength workout. If they have small weights at home, sometimes people have small dumbbells or therapy bands, they can use those in the home to exercise.”

Menges also recommends using a community center near them, whether it’s a YMCA or a senior center as they will often have exercise programs for seniors where they can freely come in and join a class. This could be anything from a chair yoga class to a strength class, she said.

“Sometimes, it’s a good idea to use a personal trainer because the winter months can be hard to stay motivated,” Menges said. “And if you work with somebody on a weekly basis, maybe even twice a week, that motivates you just to get there and kind of forces you to work out when you might not want to.”

As important as physical activity is, Derschau said it is just as important to keep the brain active. She said the library is a great place to start, with virtual speakers and other programs to keep the mind stimulated.

“Exercising the brain is equally important as physical exercise,” Derschau said. “There are virtual card clubs that you can join or arrange with your card group. Rest and relaxation also help us stay active. Sleep helps restore your body’s energy and repair muscle tissue. Additionally, getting the correct amount of quality sleep is essential to your ability to learn and process memories.”

Menges added that doing word puzzles and jigsaw puzzles are also really good ways to keep the mind active. Something that is really important too, is to not isolate yourself as human interaction is important for overall health and well-being, she stated.

Derschau emphasized safety is still very important when doing any of these activities. If you are joining indoor events, she said, wear a face mask properly that covers both the nose and the mouth and keep a safe distance from others. Older adults can also lose body heat faster than when they were young, and changes to your body that come with age make it harder to be aware of getting cold, she added.

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