Find out how chair exercises and tai chi movements help improve seniors health, and reduce the risk of a fall.
Prevention is better than cure. For people living in regional, rural and remote areas, remaining as fit and healthy as possible is a key determinant of living independently and well in their homes. This is especially the case where access to hospital, rehabilitation and residential aged-care living facilities are few and too far between.
integratedliving offers a number of movement classes delivered by trained exercise physiologists and personal trainers to give senior clients the best chance to maintain their physical and mental wellbeing, and their independence. integratedliving offers these classes at Wellness Centres in regional hubs across the country and remotely as a virtual class. The popularity of virtual classes continues to grow, especially as it enables people in remote, rural and regional areas to access the same expert guidance on offer in more populated areas.
integratedliving’s Personal Trainer, Simone, is passionate about holistic wellbeing and helping people do what they can to prevent falls and their negative consequences. Simone, who is also a finalist in the Ausactive Award for Accredited Exercise Professional of the Year, said falls prevention and holistic wellbeing are shared goals for clients participating in these seniors chair exercise classes.
Simone, who is also a finalist in the AUSactive Award for Accredited Exercise Professional of the Year, said falls prevention and holistic wellbeing are shared goals for clients participating in these seniors chair exercise classes.
“A lot of what we do in these classes is drawn from tai chi, especially mobilisation to warm up, like wrist rolls, and other tai chi for seniors sequences with big arm movements,” Simone said.
“The beautiful thing about senior chair exercises and incorporating tai chi sequences is it’s also wonderful for mental health. It requires an element of focus, calm and flow which is very soothing for the nervous system, while also firing up cognition.”
From the chair, a fundamental exercise for independent daily life is sit-to-stand, in which people practice and strengthen the muscles and joints they need to stand up on their own. Simone says this leg-strengthening exercise is practiced throughout their in-person and virtual classes.
At first, the movement is slow and the focus is on form, then the tempo is increased when participants are warmed up, engaging their core. For those seeking an extra strength element, especially those wanting to try lower back pain exercises for seniors, Simone introduces a resistance band to carefully switch on the core and large leg muscles during the sit-to-stand movement.
Simone draws on her training with Exercise Medicine Australia in tai chi for the benefit of clients. “We incorporate tai chi for seniors throughout our seniors chair exercises as there’s so many practical benefits to this practice for people in this age group,” Simone said. “Tai chi movements are excellent for gentle warm-ups, falls injury prevention, mental health, cognitive improvement and heart health. We are constantly evolving the classes to keep them fresh and up to date with the latest research for injury prevention and exercises to improve balance. We address pain management, such as lower back pain exercises for seniors and leg-strengthening exercises for seniors. Those last two are common reasons why clients first join up to our classes.
“You can imagine some elements of the seniors chair exercises can be confusing to start with for participants joining the class for the first time,” Simone said. “It’s new and there's a lot of information to follow. Our team of exercise physiologists at integratedliving encourage our clients to persevere, and most do, which is so pleasing. With time, you can see the sequencing improving, and of course the consistency and practice is where the progress is made.”
“After a few classes of practising the sequences, I can go quiet and let the class participants challenge their memory and confidence,” Simone said. “This enables their independence and gives them the skills to practice at home. I’m still there to mirror movements when needed and you can see the concentration on everyone’s faces. Once we’ve completed the sequence, everyone breaks into big smiles with that sense of completion. It’s touching as it actually takes a lot of cognitive focus to add this element of memory and unprompted movement to the class, so there are cross-over benefits we aim to include to help the whole person.”.
Seniors chair exercises, with the flexibility to practice at home, is a practical way for people with busy minds to practice active meditation. This may also help people manage their anxiety or other mental health symptoms. The connection of breath, presence of movement and changing sequences brings a steady flow to each class that requires presence of mind, slowing down thoughts and steadying class participants’ focus on the present moment.
“We also have a lot of fun,” Simone said. “Laughing, learning and connecting is a great stress relief.”
Improving balance in seniors is a key to the prevention of falls. Particular balance exercises for seniors are incorporated into these movement classes as a targeted goal for each participant to be tested on throughout the program.
Shifting weight is practised during the class as this is directly linked to balance, honing in on the capacity for clients to move from their right foot to their left foot.
“We practice weight shifting for balance in multiple directions,” Simon said. “Moving forward is the most important, but if our clients are at home and they quickly have to dodge something, they have to be able to shift their weight in multiple directions – left, right, forward, even backwards sometimes.
“We do a lot of practice to test these skills and build confidence in our balance. We start slow, with our hands on the wall and we practice simply lifting knees up, one at a time. We lift the right knee and tap it with our left hand, we lift up our left knee and tap it with our right hand. That is working on our balance. Asking for the crossover of both sides of the body is also a workout for the brain, and as a bonus it also works on the core muscles.”
If you or someone you know might be interested to join a seniors chair exercises class at one of our Wellness Centres across Australia, or via our virtual exercise program, find out more about our Movement Classes here.
At the time of publication, Personal Trainer Simone is a finalist in the AUSactive (Fitness Industry) Award for Accredited Exercise Professional of the Year. Congratulations Simone!
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