4 Tips to Help Older Adults Stay Active in the Winter

By Julie Hayes

This winter will be an atypical one in many ways due to the COVID-19 surge limiting our ability to get outside, along with the usual concerns of cold and flu season and severe weather. However, even during more traditional winters than this one, the temptation to stay in bed and hibernate like bears until the warm weather comes back is hard to overcome. After all, when “the weather outside is frightful,” what’s better than relaxing in front of a delightful fire?

But no matter how cold it gets, it’s important to keep our bodies and minds active and resist the temptation to turn COVID-19 shutdowns into a total shutdown of our energy and motivation. For older adults, staying active has a wide array of benefits such as improvement to disease prevention, mental health, quality of living and overall well being. Regular activity can also help lessen the effects of the social isolation and winter blues many of us are experiencing during the pandemic.

Here are just a few ways to stay active this winter:

1. Find ways to exercise indoors

In previous winters, you may have been able to visit community pools or take exercise classes at your local senior center. With those options limited, you may need to instead consider what options are available to you in your home environment. If you have open space in your home, you can consider trying an online workout. Many fitness YouTube channels have videos specifically for older adults, and organizations like Silver Sneakers have also adapted to shift classes to an online format during the pandemic. If you have friends you previously enjoyed working out with in person, arranging a workout over a video sharing platform may also help you stay engaged and motivated.

If you don’t have space you can dedicate to more extensive routines, you can take advantage of simple alternatives, such as chair exercises, lifting small hand weights or even just doing walking laps to and from different rooms of the house. Remember to consult a doctor before planning an exercise routine to discuss what is safe and appropriate for you to engage in.

2. Take on a household project

There’s always something that needs doing, and while having a to-do list can be frustrating when you have things you’d rather do, these kinds of activities can be blessings in disguise when your schedule opens up. Whether it’s cleaning out the closet or hanging up new photos of your family, these household tasks can keep you busy, productive and in motion.

3. Don’t neglect brain exercises

Having an active mind can be just as important as having an active body. In fact, regular mental stimulation can be key in protecting against memory loss and can help you maintain important motor skills.

Memory boosting activities can take many different forms, and you can adapt them based on your own interests. Doing crossword puzzles, playing chess, crafting, puzzling out a solve-it-yourself mystery and answering game show questions are all examples of things you can try out in your day-to-day life. In the spirit of lifelong learning, you can also expand your knowledge by watching a TED talk, listening to audio-books, watching a documentary or reading a book on a new subject.

4. Volunteer COVID-19 hasn’t shutdown volunteering—it’s only changed the way we do it. There are still innumerable opportunities to help out while following COVID-19 guidelines, such as becoming a Secret Santa to children in need or making blankets for veterans. Here at Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging, we also have opportunities to make wellness calls or assist in essential meal deliveries. To find virtual opportunities, you can look into the virtual volunteering boards of Volunteer Match and Points of Light for more ideas.