14 Best Winter Activities for Retirees to Stay in Shape

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Senior couple cross country skiing
Photo credit: RuslanDashinsky/istockphoto

COLD SWEAT

Staying active during the dead of winter when most of us want to hibernate until temperatures rise can be challenging at any age. For seniors, in particular, it can be difficult to find activities that are both enjoyable and safe. But staying active is critical and should be part of your everyday life. The National Council on Aging says regular exercise can help older adults stay independent and prevent many health problems that come with age. Here are 14 activities, both indoor and outdoor options, that experts say can help seniors stay in shape until spring officially arrives.

Indoor yoga class
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YOGA

Whether you choose to do yoga at home watching a YouTube video for guidance at home or in a class (many gyms offer yoga classes designed specifically for seniors), yoga is easily one of the best activities to help stay in shape during winter months, said David Barbour, co-founder of the wellness company Vivio Life Sciences. "During the winter months, and really all year-round, yoga is a great physical exercise and a delightful way to spend time. Also, there are types of yoga and particular positions for people with reduced mobility or in chairs," Barbour said.
Senior man on a stationary bike
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STATIONARY BIKING

Another activity that can be done either at home or at a gym, stationary biking provides an excellent cardio workout, said Barbour of Vivio Life Sciences. "You can pedal very lightly yet for a long duration," Barbour explained. "The movement requires your legs, engages your core, and upper body in the slight sway with the pedaling … You can bike for an hour, great cardio for any age."
Senior female friends walking in the mall
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STROLL THE MALLS

Winter is a great time to join a mall walkers club, notes Jeanette DePatie, a certified fitness trainer and creator of EveryBODY Can Exercise: Senior Edition. "You can window shop without breaking your budget and you don't have to worry about icy sidewalk conditions or bumps in the road," said DePatie. "Best of all, you can join your mall walking buddies for a post workout cup of coffee at the mall coffee shop."
Senior couple holding dumbbells
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STRENGTH TRAINING

A critical activity for seniors, strength training can easily be done at home, says Nick Rizzo, training director at the athletic footwear site RunRepeat.com. Options range from bodyweight exercises to dumbbells or kettlebells for those who want to push themselves a little more. "By adding some lifting to your regular routine, not only does it help fend of issues like sarcopenia, diabetes, and heart disease, it also has been shown to greatly improve overall quality of life, reduce fall risk factors, and enhance functional independence," Rizzo said.
Senior tai chi class
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TAI CHI

Tai chi has been linked to improved muscle strength, muscle mass, functional independence, and flexibility, says Rizzo, training director RunRepeat.com. "Also, with the winter months being notorious for depression, tai chi is perfect as it has been shown to improve mental and emotional health," Rizzo said. What's more, it is a low-impact, slow-motion exercise, which can make it a good option for those with limited capabilities. It can also be adapted for anyone, including those confined to wheelchairs or recovering from surgery.
Seniors bowling
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JOIN A BOWLING LEAGUE

Simply moving more is a great option for improving overall health and fitness, says Rizzo, training director RunRepeat.com. The more movement, the better. "You can join a bowling league, take up ping pong, racquetball, dancing classes, or anything that sparks your interest," Rizzo said. "If it is a new activity, it's doubly beneficial as continuing to learn is known to enhance longevity, emotional and mental health, and overall quality of life in aging populations."
Senior man standing in front of an indoor pool
Photo credit: Halfpoint/istockphoto

INDOOR SWIMMING

Swimming offers numerous benefits including decreasing stress and inflammation, says Samantha Morrison, a health and wellness expert for the hemp wellness company Glacier Wellness. "Swimming targets several muscle groups throughout the body and effectively enhances your overall endurance, strength, and muscle tone," Morrison said. "Even light swimming can be an effective aerobic exercise." Swimming combines many of the advantages of running and yoga, thanks to the concentrated rhythmic breathing, repetitive motions, and heart-pumping action, Morrison said. It's also a great option for people with osteoarthritis, for whom weight-bearing exercises can be very painful.
Chair exercise class
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CHAIR EXERCISES

If mobility issues limit your exercise options, simply pull up a chair, says James Fleming of health-products retailer Vive Health. "Chair exercises can be surprisingly powerful when it comes to cardio exercise and flexibility training," Fleming said. "Knee lifts, chair running, tummy twists . . . you might be surprised how intense and rewarding a chair workout can be." Chair-bound exercises can be a good choice for people with lower-body injuries or disabilities, or those who suffer from diabetes, and even frail seniors who are concerned about falling during exercise. Chair aerobics, which involve a series of seated, repetitive movements, can not only raise your heart rate but also help burn calories.
Woman enjoying a dance class
Photo credit: kali9/istockphoto

SIGN UP FOR A DANCE CLASS

Research has found that dancing can significantly improve muscular strength, endurance, balance, and more in older adults. Additionally, studies have shown that older adults who dance on a regular basis have greater flexibility and cognitive performance. In other words, dance can be fun and good for you. And it's an indoor activity that can be done regardless of weather.
Water aerobics class
Photo credit: FatCamera/istockphoto

WATER AEROBICS

Many local gyms and fitness facilities offer indoor water aerobics classes, an exercise ideally suited for those with arthritis or joint pain. Water exercises can help relieve the pain while increasing bone density and muscle mass. Additional benefits may include improving heart and lung function and helping with balance to reduce the risk of injury from falls.
Senior couple walking outside in the snow
Photo credit: Dean Mitchell/istockphoto

WALKING OUTDOORS ENJOYING NATURE

Bundle up and head outdoors for a nature walk or snowshoeing if you're a more active type. The most important factor here is to dress appropriately, wear sunscreen, and pay attention to how your body is feeling. Spending time in nature has many benefits, including boosting physical and mental well-being. Seniors who make a point of getting outdoors may even experience less depression and anxiety.
Older woman stretching at home
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FITNESS VIDEOS

When the weather is particularly brutal outside, fitness videos provide a convenient way to stay on track with staying physically fit. There are videos that cater to all ages and capability levels. The Fit at Any Age channel for those with a Roku, is free and provides options for all skill levels. Offerings include yoga, Pilates, seated exercises, strength training, tai chi, weight loss, and more. Also, libraries offer exercise videos free for checkout.
Senior couple cross country skiing
Photo credit: RuslanDashinsky/istockphoto

CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING

For those retirees who are more active and physically fit, cross-country skiing is yet another good option. Not only does it provide a significant cardiovascular exercise, it's a low impact activity that reduces loading on joints, which is important for those who have arthritis or other joint defects, according to UW Health, part of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Skiing with family and friends is also a great bonding opportunity.
Older woman doing laundry
Photo credit: Stígur Már Karlsson /Heimsmyndir/istockphoto

DOING ACTIVITIES AROUND THE HOUSE

Winter activities can be as simple as walking up and down the stairs in your home, or circling around the room several times. Cleaning and doing chores to keep moving is another good option. The goal is simply to change your position at intervals, get your heart pumping, and keep your muscles moving.

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