Northern Michigan Living: Low-Impact Exercises for Seniors

Northern Michigan Living: Body aches, pains and changes that naturally come with aging don’t have to bring your fitness regimen to a halt—there’s still plenty of ways to stay active, especially in the world of lower-impact exercise.

“Unquestionably, exercises that challenge you, yet help you maintain postural dignity and safety to joints would be the best choice,” says Libby Robold, who along with husband Michael owns and operates Yoga for Health in Traverse City.

Here’s what Robold, whose therapeutic work is called Breathercise, has to say about easier-on-the-body exercise.

What are the benefits of low-impact exercise—and who needs it most?

Low-impact exercise is the protocol for anyone with sensitive knees, hips, or spine, or fibromyalgia. Some people have a difficult time knowing where their edge is in exercise or a yoga class. You may push into pain before you know it … Exercise that makes you a little sore the next day is expected if you haven’t been active. Discomfort or pain that lasts for days is a red flag. If you have just exercised and you feel energetic and happy afterward with no noticeable discomfort, it is a good fit. If you feel depleted and couldn’t wait until the activity was over, you may be in the wrong playing field.

Why is yoga such a smart low-impact workout?

Yoga is especially outstanding as it offers such a variety of styles and approaches. If you push hard in your life work, your athletic endeavors, and daily experiences, you might consider a yoga practice that is more calming, engaging you in deep holding poses with a strong focus on breathing. In class, you practice the art of being still, listening inside yourself and exploring the edge of how far you should go. Heightening the awareness of your physical self takes time and self-study.

What’s a good way to start?

If you have been sedentary for some time, you should choose an entry-level class first, such as gentle or beginning practices, until you feel like you have mastered some basics, don’t feel depleted, and have developed strength to move on. Therapeutic classes are helpful if you’re experiencing back issues, arthritic activity in joints or are recovering from emotional or mental challenges. Healthy high-energy folks can take highly active, aerobic forms of yoga if in good health, and you’ll want to choose a practice that progressively warms you up first, and likewise, progressively cools you down. Find an experienced, well-trained teacher, coach or even physical therapist for the exercise category you select.

And what about the different classes your studio offers?

At Yoga for Health Education, our mission is to facilitate a program that helps people master skills that can be utilized to help them help themselves. If you take a class, we offer the idea you can integrate the concepts and exercises presented into your life story. We offer classes for all ages and abilities and have outreach programs in the community. Classes range from Gentle, Beginning, and a beyond the beginning level, called Beginning & Beyond. The more intermediate practices are Ashtanga and Vinyasa Flow. These classes assume you have some background experience with the basics of yoga. Other specialty classes include Kundalini (a playful, highly active breath inspired yoga), Yin (a quiet, meditative deep passive stretch), Restorative, Tai chi, and Pilates. Our teachers are well trained and make the class setting inviting and safe.

Patience is pretty important, isn’t it?

Absolutely. It takes a long time for back or other pain-driven issues to surface, including injury. Active people just want a quick fix and need support learning patience while allowing the body to have time to heal. For some people, a 10- to 12-week class is all they need because deep-seated tension in the muscles was released. Other folks may require more time depending on their set of circumstances. Some conditions could take as long as a year to heal. There are some problems that, perhaps, will never go away (too much physical damage before starting) but must be arrested where they are, so there is less chance of further damage. Most people, however, do start seeing improvement very soon, some even the first night, which inspires them to stay the course. When you start and stay the course in an active class or a therapeutic option, know that it is consistency that makes all the difference. Staying active in moderation is supportive, healing, and preventative. You are less likely to get injured, and when you do face a health challenge you will bounce back quickly. Remember when you feel great, life, once again, can become a joyful adventure.

Easy Ways To Get Moving Outdoors

1. Talk with your physician about best exercises for your body before starting a new regimen. 2.   Start close to home. Stroll around your neighborhood, check out nearby trails. Walk, hike or bike during the warmer months, and snowshoe or cross-country ski during the winter.
3. Always let someone else know where you’re going and when you’ll return from your workout. Wear appropriate clothing and gear for the elements. 4. Ask friends to join you—or sign on for group exercise.

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