For kids in snow country, there's such a fun thrill to open the door and spot the crisp whiteness all around. They love to throw snow balls, slide down hills, and build snowmen. Great exercise all around.
But for our beloved seniors, getting exercise in the chill of winter, even without snow, is a bit more difficult. It's so vital for them to keep moving - for their body's sake and their brain's sake. As many are now writing, including Mayo Clinic in their article, Memory loss: 7 tips to improve your memory, "Physical activity increases blood flow to your whole body, including your brain. This may help keep your memory sharp." http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/memory-loss/HA00001/NSECTIONGROUP=2
Here are some simple ideas that might help you and your family:
Snow on the Sidewalks? Walk in the street with a partner. My senior mom normally walks one - two miles each day but snow definitely makes that more challenging. When I am home, the sidewalks are icy but we can go out together, walking very slowly in the street that was pre-salted and have little or no problem. It's a quiet area so we are easily able to avoid most traffic.
Pick large stores for grocery shopping. You can both get your groceries and exercise at the same time.
Join a Gym - There are many excellent gyms available with treadmills and other equipment. If you check with your medical insurance, you might be pleasantly surprised to discover you get a discount at some.
Walk in water - Call the various gyms, YMCAs, and physical therapy offices and ask if any offer a heated pool that is open to the public for lap swims OR lap walks. We prefer the water temperature to be 90 degrees and above. If you don't mind 80 degrees and above, you'll probably have more choices.
Mini Exercise Bike - A senior friend has advanced Parkinsons Disease and Alzheimers Disease. Walking is very difficult for him. But he has a mini pedal exerciser bike that he is able to pedal away on while watching TV, which helps to keep his body a bit more limber. This is especially good for him, dealing with Alzheimers Disease, as studies such as the one listed at the NIH website have shown that, "Exercise training increases fitness, physical function, cognitive function, and positive behavior in people with dementia and related cognitive impairments." http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15468033
Take the Stairs - My senior mom used to walk up and down the stairs in the house to get regular exercise. She's a bit less steady now, so she leaves that to me and trust me, it does help!
Walk Inside - When I am gone, and she wants some extra exercise, my senior mom will go walk around and around in the garage if it is warm enough or walk through the house from room to room. I've even been known to do this when the weather stays bad long enough. We either listen to a good book on tape or iPod, or chat away on the telephone. That way, we get good company and less boredom.
However your senior parents (and you) get the exercise, it's well worth it - for body and mind. So look for positive and creative ways to encourage them to walk with you in person or on the phone. You'll both be glad you did.
Kaye Swain is a member of the Sandwich Generation dealing with the issues of caring for the elderly parents and relatives in her family while also babysitting grandchildren. She enjoys writing on those topics at SandwichINK, in order to provide other multigenerational caregivers with useful information, resources and encouragement.