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Exercising Outdoors – Safety Tips and 8 Options for Seniors
Catherine M

Medically Reviewed By Zuri Hawkins Zarret, PharmD, MPH, BCPS, Board Certified Pharmacotherapy Specialist

by Catherine M, Senior Editor | Skin, Hair & Dental Care

Last Updated On September 4th, 2023, Published On April 18, 2023

Outdoors

Exercising Outdoors – Safety Tips and 8 Options for Seniors

Physical fitness enhances cognitive and physical strength and, as such, is crucial for overall well-being. Exercising helps improve flexibility and balance and can be a good addition to a healthy lifestyle. Exercises for older adults are designed keeping in mind senior health challenges and should be performed with caution to avoid injury. Here are a few tips to stay safe while engaging in exercise routines for seniors.

Key safety tips

Safety should be your top priority while exercising outdoors. To accommodate safe workouts, you can modify the routine according to your comfort level, needs, and goals. Further, you consider the following safety tips to avoid health risks and injuries:

Set your own pace

When exercising, it is quite easy to compare yourself to others; however, it is imperative to set your own pace and avoid rushing into the process. Further, you must also ensure that you take regular breaks to avoid over-exertion. Not getting enough rest between workouts may increase the risk of strokes, heart attacks, and other cardiovascular issues. Further, excessive and vigorous exercise right at the beginning may overwork the muscles and increase the risk of injuries or fractures.

Begin with easy exercises

As per the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, you should engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. So, to meet that goal, you can begin with easy workouts like brisk walking and marching in place. These exercises are not only safe for seniors but also ensure minimum risk of falling and injuries. Over time, you can opt for high-intensity sets. But first, you should gauge moderate intensity with a “talk test”, where you should be able to speak a whole sentence without pausing for another breath while exercising.

Make better food choices

You may believe that eating before exercising may make you sleepy or sluggish. However, you must fuel your body with foods rich in vitamins, nutrients, and minerals to increase your metabolism before a workout. During exercise, your body can lose a high amount of energy. So, if you do not have nutrient-dense foods beforehand, you are more likely to experience weakness during and after the workout. You can start the day with foods rich in healthy nutrients, such as oatmeal, fresh fruits, and vegetables.

Use the equipment carefully

If you want to use equipment while exercising outdoors, you must make sure that they are designed for elderly workouts. In most cases, you can modify exercises to align with your fitness level to prevent injuries or excessive strain. However, you should ensure you are using the equipment as per the instructions. This means before setting up the equipment, you must carefully read the manufacturer’s guidelines to ensure safety while exercising outdoors. Alternatively, you should seek assistance from certified trainers and follow their instructions on using the exercise equipment to a tee.

Do not overdo it

You can reap the best benefits of physical activity only when it is part of your daily routine. Engaging in regular workouts can contribute to improved mental health, better disease prevention, and improved cognitive function. However, this does not mean exerting yourself. You must set boundaries and avoid exerting the body excessively. This can help you avoid straining your muscles, overworking them, or even injuring yourself in the process.

Always wear the right gear

Ill-fitting exercise gear, such as extremely tight pants or loose shoes, increases the risk of injuries during a workout. This is because tight-fitting clothes may prohibit movement and cause you to strain the muscles while moving the body. So, always choose safe, well-fitted, comfortable, and lightweight clothing while engaging in a senior-friendly exercise routine, both outdoors and indoors.

Use aids

With age, the risk of cognitive issues or limited mobility can increase, especially when working out. Further, these issues can also affect flexibility and balance—factors important for maintaining safety during any kind of physical activity. To avoid such issues, exercise routines can be modified according to convenience. This can include using a chair, cane, or even a bench when working out. You can also engage the services of a professional trainer to prevent falls and injuries. Choosing professionals with experience in elderly fitness can prioritize safety while helping achieve workout goals.

Check the weather forecast

Usually, warm days are best for outdoor activities such as walking and gardening. However, older adults over 60 should avoid working out when it’s warm. Such weather can increase the risk of health problems such as hyperthermia—a condition that can cause exhaustion and strokes due to overheating. So, before starting with an exercise routine for seniors, you should check the weather forecast for the day, and if it is supposed to be hot, then opt for at-home exercises like marching in place, hip swings, and spine-rotation stretches.

Always stay hydrated

Aging can reduce the amount of water the body can store, increasing the risk of dehydration. So, drinking enough water throughout the day is extremely important as it helps regulate body temperature and even lubricates the joints. So, you should have water not only before but also during and after a workout. Also, have a lot of fluids during the day. In addition to increasing fluid intake, you can also choose foods such as spinach, broccoli, cucumber, and apples to stay hydrated and reduce the risk of fainting spells or falls during the exercise.

Check your heart rate

Older adults are likely to experience issues like tiredness, increased heart rate, and fainting spells when exercising outdoors. So, a safety measure would be to check your pulse during the workout. Maintaining a healthy heart rate based on your age can help you avoid overexertion. While indoor exercise equipment like treadmills and ellipticals have heart rate sensors to help keep tabs on health, you can use mobile heart rate monitors and fitness watches with heart rate readings when outdoors. This ensures you remain safe, avoid falls, and do not over-exert your body.

Best exercises for older adults

You can stay active by gradually adding some form of physical activity to your daily routine. If you are looking for a balanced exercise plan, try different types of workouts to keep it interesting and meet multiple fitness goals. This can prove incredibly helpful in improving your overall health. To help you get started, here are some of the safest and best exercises for elders:

Chair yoga

Yoga has been proven to provide therapeutic benefits and improve quality of life. So, you should not avoid this exercise based on the belief it can be unsafe for seniors. What’s more? One of the easiest exercises for older adults is chair yoga. This helps you control your breathing and perform simple stretches while being seated on a chair. The set can include single leg stretch, seated twist, and even a seated forward bend. Further, yoga, in general, can be beneficial for older adults, helping improve the quality of sleep, flexibility, mobility, and balance.

Water aerobics

This is one of the most popular forms of exercise among people of all ages. Water aerobics is extremely easy and safe for seniors while also being fun. Exercising in the water can prove extremely beneficial for relieving joint pain and arthritis symptoms, as the buoyancy of water can help reduce the stress on joints. Further, water can bring a natural resistance, eliminating the need for weights. You can try flutter kicking, aqua jogging, arm curls, and leg lifts as a part of your water aerobics routine.

Walking

Although often overlooked, walking is an excellent exercise that is not only accessible to everyone but also beneficial for people of all ages. While the distance covered and the time taken can vary from one person to another, adding about 30 minutes of walking to your exercise program can be an excellent way to maintain and improve strength and endurance. You can also make the process interesting by choosing pleasant and scenic routes in your area; this can help you feel motivated to take a walk every day. You can also find parks and trails close to you, making it easier to take a stroll whenever you want.

Pilates

Pilates is a set of low-impact exercises that was developed a century ago. Here, you must focus on breathing, balance, concentration, alignment, and core strength. A routine often involves the use of equipment like pilates balls, mats, and other inflated accessories to build strength. This form of exercise has been shown to improve flexibility and balance and also develop core strength in older adults. Some of the best exercises for older adults include leg circles, step-ups, side circles, and mermaid movement. After you get the hang of the workout routine, you can also try some exercises at home. While the exercises are safe for older adults, you should practice them under the supervision of a certified trainer to ensure complete safety.

Dumbbells

Strength training exercises prove beneficial in alleviating the symptoms of conditions like osteoporosis, back pain, and diabetes—a few major concerns among older adults. Strength training contributes to enhanced glucose control, higher metabolism, improved balance, and flexibility. If done right, then the strength training exercises target various parts of the body, such as the hips, back, abdomen, legs, shoulders, and arms. Additionally, dumbbell exercises allow you to strengthen isolated muscles without putting pressure on the other parts of the body. You can start with lighter dumbbells and practice exercises like front raises, overhead presses, bicep curls, and bent-over rows. When you first use dumbbells, ensure you take all the necessary precautions to avoid any injuries.

Cycling

You can cycle in your area every morning, or if you wish to work out at home, you can opt for a stationary bike. Cycling requires you to use larger muscles, like your hamstrings and quadriceps. This leads to an increase in the blood flow to the lungs and the heart. Similar to other forms of cardio exercises, when cycling, the body is met by repetitive demands for higher blood flow, so the body adapts to the need by increasing its capacity. This works wonders for strengthening the heart. Cycling as an outdoor or indoor exercise can prove advantageous for seniors with joint or muscle pain, as the exercise does not involve any ground impact. This means there is minimal stress on the joints.

Tai chi

An ancient practice that is also known as meditation in motion, tai chi is a set of gentle exercises that combines bodily functions like breathing with slow movements and focus. This is a low-impact activity and is considered extremely safe for older adults. Moreover, it can prove instrumental in improving flexibility, balance, and overall quality of life. In addition, tai chi can help your body improve awareness of itself, which can lower the risk of falls and injuries. However, as an additional safety measure when practicing tai chi outdoors, you can have a spotter nearby to avoid accidents.

Chair calf raises

Calf exercises can strengthen lower body muscles and help improve balance and walking ability. Calf contractions aid in pumping an increased amount of blood from the legs to the upper body and brain. This can help in reducing fainting spells or instances of lightheadedness that are triggered by sudden movement. Here, you sit on a chair to maintain your balance and repeatedly push the weight of your feet onto the toes. If you want to make the most of this exercise, consider repeating it for a minimum duration of 10 minutes every day.

In addition to taking precautions and choosing the right workout for outdoor or at-home exercise sessions, it is important to be aware of the health conditions that may affect your safety. Individual symptoms can influence the kind of exercise you can take up. Taking into account all the health concerns, you can come up with a senior-friendly exercise plan with the proper modifications to accommodate your fitness, comfort, and needs. Modifying the exercise plan to align with your health goals and limitations ensures that your workout is safe yet enjoyable.