When Nancy Levitt's mother was first diagnosed with dementia 14 years ago at age 78, the doctor told her she could safely drive to familiar places. But Levitt, 61, who volunteers at UCLA's Center on Aging in Los Angeles, was still nervous. Unexplained nicks and dents started appearing on her mother's car. She forgot where she parked. Levitt tried to discuss driving safety with her mother, but she angrily denied there was a problem. Then, she would forget their talks about driving altogether.
“We lose about a half-pound of muscle per year for each year we’re not regularly engaged in resistance training,” says Jessica Matthews, assistant professor of exercise science at Miramar College in San Diego. Strength training also helps keep your bones strong.
Yoga is a great option because it does not require specialized equipment and can be done anywhere. Matthews says her yoga classes are filled with people of all ages and skill levels, and she has seen more older adults embrace the practice in recent years.
“One of the most important things is taking great care to understand what your body needs,” Matthews says. If you have arthritis, limited mobility, or other health issues, she says, there is a modification for almost every yoga pose to accommodate your physical needs.
Whether it’s at a yoga studio or community center or in your home, yoga is a great way to gently build your endurance while also fostering a mind-body connection.
Here are six poses Matthews suggests to get started:
1. Tree Pose
Tree pose helps to improve balance, Matthews says, which can help prevent falls.
Stand with your legs together and your arms straight over your head, palms together.
Raise your right leg slightly off the ground so that the toes are still on the ground and your heel is touching the inside part of your ankle.
Balance for 20 to 30 seconds if possible.
Repeat with the other leg. Hold onto something if necessary.
As you gain balance, draw your raised foot upward, resting the sole of your foot on the inside of the lower leg.
Eventually, work toward having your raised leg bent, with the foot resting on the inside of the opposite leg above your knee.