Joint Health

You may think that only people who can stand on their heads or touch their toes can practice yoga. Well, it’s time to think again! Yoga boasts a slew of benefits for seniors, from managing arthritis pain to balancing mood and emotions. And you don’t have to have been practicing for decades to reap these rewards. Studies show the benefits of yoga can be felt within just a few short weeks of regular practice.

Even though you understand the benefits, there may still be something holding you back. For many seniors, it’s a combination of time, support and money. Yoga classes cost money and take time, often requiring us to catch rides to and from a gym or studio. While these are totally reasonable obstacles, they can be easily overcome. Here are 10 ways to help seniors build a strong, sustainable yoga practice.

Senior Travel-Pixabay(qimono)

Photo by Pixabay (qimono)

#10 Check out Silver Sneakers: Your Medicare plan may cover some or all of the costs of joining a gym that provides yoga classes. Ask your health plan advisor for information on Silver Sneakers, which are fitness classes offered at gyms all across the nation and catered specifically to seniors. All classes are led by a certified instructor to ensure your safety, with the added benefit that they can easily cater the class to your needs and abilities.

#9 Look for Senior Discounts: Gyms and studios often run discounts and specials just for seniors to help them get access to the classes they need for preventative care and health. You can even check out coupon and discount websites like Groupon to find affordable deals, or give them a call to ask about specials. You may also come across some that run ads in your local newspaper. If you have a local studio in mind, stop by and express your interest in learning yoga. They may offer you a free class to help gauge your interest or offer you a coupon or discounted price.

#8 Make a Home Studio: Clear out a room in your home for a daily yoga practice. If you have furniture or boxes gathering dust in an unused bedroom, put them in storage. Another idea is to use your dining room for your yoga space. According to Angie’s List, many people have found alternative uses for their dining room as only 23 percent of homeowners routinely eat meals in this room. Once you’ve cleared a space, store your yoga mat nearby so that it’s always ready. Bring in some relaxing additions such as a scented candle, greenery, or artwork.

#7 Watch Yoga Videos: There are hundreds of free online yoga videos from certified professionals. You can follow along as they practice or watch videos that break down poses so you can work on safe alignment. You can also purchase yoga DVDs in the electronics or fitness section at most stores such as Walmart or Target, making practicing yoga as easy as popping in a DVD.

#6 Focus on Your Breath: If you can breathe then, guess what? You are practicing yoga! Try to pair your movements to an inhale and exhale. You can do this when walking, washing the dishes or sweeping the floor. Mindfulness is central to yoga’s mental health benefits. Sit in a comfy chair or in a seated position on the floor and clear your mind of any intruding thoughts so that you can pay attention to nothing but your breathing. Inhale and exhale deeply and slowly for 10 minutes to start or end your day.

#5 Download a Free Meditation App: There are dozens of well-reviewed free meditation apps that you can download to your phone or tablet. You can use these to learn more about meditation, start a basic practice and to encourage and track your progress.

#4 There are Yoga Apps, Too! You can download yoga apps for your phone or tablet that you can use for free. Try to make it social by inviting your friends to use the app or practicing with your caregiver or a family member. Once you get the hang of it and learn what moves work best for you, you can create your own routine to follow.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay(SofieZborilova)

Photo courtesy of Pixabay(SofieZborilova)

#3 Focus on One Pose: Instead of jumping into a whole series or flow, just focus on one or a handful of poses at a time. You can do them while watching television or after you first wake up. Keep it simple and move deeper into the pose as time allows. Yoga takes time and practice, so don’t be discouraged if you struggle at first. Start with simple moves and use props such as a chair for extra assistance. Should you decide you’d like to try more advanced moves, attend a class first to make sure you are doing it correctly and aren’t at risk of injuring yourself.

#2 Try a Work Share Arrangement: Many yoga studios and gyms will provide free classes in exchange for help watching the register and cleaning the studio. Talk to studios near you to find one that is interested in this kind of partnership.

#1 Take Classes with Friends: Whether you are paying for a class or going to the gym, practicing with friends can reduce the risk of senior isolation and make yoga more fun—and make it more likely you will stick with it. Plus, you can carpool with your friends, which is especially helpful if driving is a concern for you.

Yoga helps seniors stay healthy in both mind and body, and is also a fun, yet relaxing way to spend time alone or with friends. Try out any one of the tips above to make these your golden years for health and fitness.

Harry Cline is creator of NewCaregiver.org and author of the upcoming book, The A-Z Home Care Handbook: Health Management How-Tos for Senior Caregivers. As a retired nursing home administrator, father of three, and caregiver to his ninety-year-old uncle, Harry knows how challenging and rewarding caregiving can be. He also understands that caregiving is often overwhelming for those just starting out. He created his website and is writing his new book to offer new caregivers everywhere help and support.

Nearly 1 in 3 adults currently suffer from joint pain or immobility. Of those afflicted, 3 in 4 are diagnosed with a chronic condition, such as arthritis. The alternative source of joint pain is principally tendonitis. Since these conditions are difficult to treat post-offset, the proactive adult would be clever to take preventative measures before symptoms present.

Both arthritis and tendonitis differ in cause but are similar in prevention and treatment. Therefore, the same protocol can be strictly followed for both conditions. Smartly consult your primary care physician and establish a clean bill of health before starting any new physical or dietary regimen.

Pursuing joint health begins with risk factor identification, such as:

  • Obesity
  • A family history of joint pain
  • A sedentary lifestyle
  • Type II diabetes
  • A diet high in refined sugars or gluten
Photo courtesy of Pixabay(DarkoStojanovic)
Photo courtesy of Pixabay(DarkoStojanovic)

It would be surprising if anyone reading this didn’t have at least one or two of those risk factors. However, by simply replacing refined sugars with natural sugars, and carb-rich foods with vegetables it becomes possible to reduce several risk factors straight away. Second to this would be habitual exercise, especially in water, which is without impact on the joints.

You may be thinking now, ‘well that all sounds good, but I just don’t have the time to do all that.’ So, take a moment to consider this: if you cannot make time for being healthy, you will have to make time for being sick. It is easy to forget about your health when you’re not currently with disease or illness, but when a chronic condition presents itself, it may be too late to go back.

The easiest lifestyle changes to make are dietary. To be specific, there are foods that promote joint health, and others that are to the detriment of our joints. Before listing these foods, remember to only eat in moderation—even healthy foods can be overconsumed.

Foods to eat:

Foods to avoid:

  • Fast foods
  • Processed sugars
  • Bread
  • Alcoholic drinks

A good rule of thumb is to have every meal be two-parts vegetables, one-part fruit, and one-part meat, fish, or nuts. Ideally, nobody would ever eat unhealthy foods or drinks, but it shouldn’t cause any noticeable harm to have these things on occasion, say once per week.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay(SofieZborilova)
Photo courtesy of Pixabay(SofieZborilova)

Daily exercise is also vital to the preservation of the kinetic apparatus, especially the joints. The most optimal exercises being ones with little to no impact, such as walking, biking, and exercises in water. Exercising half an hour per day is a fantastic preventative measure for joint degradation.

The actual stretches, which should be performed twice daily, and should be held for 30 seconds each, unless otherwise specified, are as follows:

  • Place your right hand on your left shoulder from the front, as if you were patting yourself on the back, and then use your left hand to push your elbow up and towards your back, then switch arms.
  • Place both hands behind your back as if being handcuffed, then slide your hands up towards your mid-back to form chicken wings. Hold this position for up to a minute.
  • Push your palms against a wall, with arms straight, and legs in a lunging position. Then, flip your hands so the backs of your hands are against the wall, and hold the position again. This is excellent for the wrists and elbows.
  • Put your fingers through a thick rubber band and open your fingers, spreading the band apart. Perform on both hands.
  • Get into a lunge position and hold, then switch legs.
  • Lay on your back with your feet together. Now, slide your feet up towards your butt before spreading your legs and trying to put your knees on the floor. Do not at any point allow your feet to lose contact with each other. Your legs should be forming a triangular shape.

Repeat these stretches three times each session, with a minute rest or so between each stretch. At no point should you feel exhausted doing these stretches—and if that happens, allow yourself as much time as you need to calm your breathing and nerves. Following this protocol, joint problems should never develop or should be much less severe if already present.

Guest Contributor: Victoria Ward has always been very passionate about psychology and health. She is a recent graduate with a major in psychology and a minor in neurobiology, focusing on Alzheimer’s, learning, and memory.