Safe and easy exercise alternatives for seniors

"Maintaining a certain level of fitness helps to prevent falls as we get older by keeping our muscles and bones strong."
"Maintaining a certain level of fitness helps to prevent falls as we get older by keeping our muscles and bones strong."

Regular exercise has benefits for seniors that extend beyond merely keeping fit.

According to Peter Wilson, director of physiotherapy supplies specialist Access Health, it also prevents common injuries among seniors from occurring.

"Maintaining a certain level of fitness helps to prevent falls as we get older by keeping our muscles and bones strong," he said.

"Devices such as resistive bands and exercise pedals can help your daily routine by allowing you to exercise your arms and legs, as can wobble boards and balance mats by allowing you to maintain a keen sense of balance."

To those keen on getting stuck into a personal fitness regime from the comfort of their own home, Wilson said it's important to not bite off more than you can chew.

"To get the most out of these types of devices it's important to start slowly and then increase resistance as you feel your body getting stronger," he said.

"As always, check with your doctor first if you are unfit or unsure what effect the exercise will have on your body."

A new seniors-only exercise park set up by Victoria University in Sunshine North just outside Melbourne offers an alternative for those wanting an easy option in an outdoor, social atmosphere.

Victoria University PhD researcher Myrla Sales said the park's platforms, steps, bridges and bars were specifically designed to give seniors a fun workout for all the skills they need in their day-to-day lives, while incorporating extra safety features like soft, non-slip rubber surfaces and rounded edges.

"This is designed to help keep you in shape for all the skills in daily life like climbing stairs, lifting shopping bags, doing the gardening or keeping up with your pet or grandchild at the park," Sales said.

"This is something different that has not been done before and what's great is that it allows people to be outside in the fresh air, with their friends or making new ones and keeping up their skills to stay active."

Researchers behind the project are now inviting over-60s to give the new facility a trial so they can measure the benefits it has for maintaining strength, balance and other key skills in older people.

Those who sign up for the research project will be randomly assigned to one of two groups: one group will join the twice weekly exercise sessions of 1 to 1.5 hours each at the Sunshine North exercise park for 18 weeks, with guidance from an exercise physiologist.

The exercises will be done in pairs and highly supervised for safety and correct technique. The other group will enjoy organised social activities including cards, checkers, chess and other board games.

All participants will also have three visits to Victoria University's Footscray Park campus where researchers will tell you all about your muscle strength, balance skills and general health.

Both locations are easily accessible by public transport and a warm welcome, individual support and refreshments will be provided on each visit.

Sales said: "As researchers we're keen to measure how using this park helps increase strength and balance because if it has the impact we expect it to then it's something we would like to replicate all over Australia."