How Seniors Stay Active During Winter in Northern Michigan

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For people with limited mobility, finding exercises that work well for them can be difficult—especially in the snowy months when everything is ice-covered in Northern Michigan. Discover how seniors stay active during winter.

Ericca “CC” Hovie is the Traverse City Program Coordinator at the Grand Traverse County Parks and Recreation Senior Center Network. For nine years, she has helped develop multiple health and exercise programs for older adults who experience exercise challenges, including fears of falling or socializing with new people.  

Here are her insights on how seniors can stay active throughout the winter.

Why is continuing to exercise and being active so important for older adults?
“Endorphins always feel good no matter the age! There are a multitude of health benefits for anyone participating in exercise; some are obvious like reducing risk of heart attack, lower cholesterol levels, lower risk of type 2 diabetes, lower blood pressure, etc. but others are not so obvious like feeling better, improved mood, feeling more relaxed, better sleep and easier recovery during a hospitalization. Isolation is very common for older adults but by attending exercise classes and being active, they make friends and connections that go beyond the class or activity. Socialization is just as vital as the exercise itself. People look out for each other and take care of their friends.”

What are common difficulties for older adults when it comes to exercise, and how do you recommend overcoming them?
Common difficulties of trying an exercise class or new activity are time, money, transportation, fear of the unknown, reduced mobility, fear of falling and motivation. The Senior Center Network addresses a lot of these issues. The Network has a full roster of indoor and outdoor programs throughout Grand Traverse County designed to meet a variety of different fitness levels and mobilities, scheduling restrictions and price points. We offer chair exercise classes, yoga, Pilates, aerobics and weight training. We also offer line dancing, cross country skiing and snowshoeing. Some classes are free and most are very low cost. We also have a Wellness for Veterans program that allows veterans to receive a coupon book and attend up to 20 exercise and wellness classes for free. Once older adults attend exercise classes regularly, their strength and endurance will improve and the fear of falling will diminish. 

“My advice: Grab a friend and try a class that sounds interesting. If new people attend solo the staff is happy to introduce them to the class. Everyone was new or a beginner at some point and our exercise class leaders and participants are very welcoming. No one is judging others and if someone has to take a break, that’s perfectly fine. Having fun and making friends is one of the major reasons older adults attend our programs.” 

Visit grandtraverse.org/scn or stop by the Traverse City Senior Center to learn more.

I Want to Be Healthier: Q&A with Traverse City Behavioral Health Specialist Mandy Remai

6 Ways to Get Moving This Winter

Beyond the great programs listed at grandtraverse.org/scn, here are six more ideas for seniors.

1. Stretch

As simple as it may seem, starting your morning with a good stretch can set the tone for a productive day. This easy activity can help improve posture, decrease muscle soreness and improve digestion.

2. Get Some Fresh Air

On those wonderful days that Northern Michigan gives us a beautiful winter afternoon—where the sun is shining, the wind is calm and the temperature is mild—bundle up and go for a walk outside. Stick to locations that are well tended to, and the sidewalks are well salted. 

Tip: Take a stroll with a friend downtown. Businesses often keep their sidewalks clear. 

3. Window Shop (Indoors & Outdoors) 

What better way to get your body moving than simultaneously taking advantage of those post-holiday deals at a local shopping spot. Who knows, you may even discover some shops you didn’t realize existed while you’re en-route! Swing into the Village at Grand Traverse Commons where there are wheelchair-accessible ramps throughout the indoor shops. Or take part in an hour-long walking tour across The Common’s campus (not wheelchair accessible; about one mile in length). 

4. Do Chair Yoga

Don’t you hate that additional muscle tension that comes with the winter months? Loosen up with some indoor yoga from the comfort of your chair. Regardless of balance or flexibility, chair yoga is known to help with stress, pain and fatigue. (Check out this free low-impact chair exercise class in Traverse City entitled “Active for Life.”) 

5. Try Fitness Classes

Group fitness offers you a chance to socialize and move your body. Options at the Grand Traverse Bay YMCA include Functional Fitness and Gentle Yoga. These classes allow participants to engage in a range of low-impact strength training and slow-paced, chair-based exercises designed to improve range of motion. 

6. Go for a Swim

Swimming is a perfect gentle-on-your-body workout that’s painless on your joints, strengthens muscles and improves cardiovascular health. Better yet, join a guided course in Aqua Flex at the YMCA—recommended for people with arthritis, fibromyalgia or joint replacement.

Read Next: Water Fitness For All Ages and Abilities at Grand Traverse Bay YMCA


Shape Up North is a community collaboration dedicated to helping northern Michigan residents benefit from healthy eating habits and an active lifestyle. Living a healthier lifestyle can and should be an enjoyable adventure. Small changes in habits at school, work, and home can have long-lasting, positive effects on your health. With an abundance of great local foods and a four-season playground right outside your door, you and your family can lead a healthy, fit, and fun life.

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