As we get older, we tend to spend less time in physical activity than when we were younger. Less than half of adults exercise enough to meet health guidelines, and even fewer older adults tend to do so (cdc.gov). While getting older is a predictor of reduced physical activity, children today are also getting less physical activity than they did in previous generations, to the detriment of their health and physical development. If you are a grandparent (or have friends with grandchildren), you might agree that kids today have less unstructured free play than you did during your own youth. When you were a child, you might have spent time after school and on weekends riding your bike, climbing trees, or just wandering the neighborhood until you found some other kids to play “sardines” or “kick the can.” Children today are spending more time in front of televisions, computers, and mobile devices. Both the U.S. and Canadian governments have launched campaigns to increase the amount of time families spend in activity. Both letsmove.gov and participaction.com are great websites where you can read about the issue and ways to address this growing health problem.
Grandparents can be an important part of the solution when they combine family time with physical activity. Many of our clients list keeping up with their energetic grandchildren as one of their many motivators to get fitter and stronger. Exercise should be fun, and when we take the lead from children, we can learn how to bring back play and the joy of movement into our fitness routines. Here are a few exercises you can do both on your own and with the younger generation. Since getting older means that we spend less time in physical activity, and with kids moving around less as well, why not set a great example and have fun at the same time!
These exercises can be done at the playground First, find a monkey bar. Keeping your feet on the ground and your hands on the bar, perform assisted chin ups by bending your elbows and straightening your legs, then squatting as you straighten your arms and come down. Next, you can hold your grandchild while he or she pulls him/herself up with your assistance. Compare how many you each did, and encourage each other to do it again and add one more repetition! Next, find a park bench. Place your arms across your chest and sit down on the bench then rise again to standing position. Perform this exercise with your grandchild and count together to see how many you can do. You can even try to pick up your speed together, and see how many you can do in 30 seconds. If you want to know how many you should be able to do for your age, email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Have fun exercising!
Please consult a medical professional before starting this or any other exercise program. This article does not constitute medical advice.
Kate Maliha, MA (HKin) has a Master’s degree in Human Kinetics and has conducted aging research at the University of British Columbia. She is the owner of Love Your Age (www.LoveYourAge.ca), a fitness company specializing in the exercise needs of seniors.