Martial Arts Exercises for Seniors
NOTE: As with any new exercise program, consult your doctor to assess your physical condition.
We’ve all seen the movies; Enter the Dragon, Seven Samurai, The Karate Kid. As such, during the 1960s, 70s and 80s, Hollywood produced a number of high profile action movies that brought the mysterious aspects of the martial arts to the general public. Stars like Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris and Jackie Chan became famous and highlighted signature moves uses by their movie characters.
These movies mostly emphasized the defense aspect of the practice. But there’s much more to the various martial arts. We saw an introduction to some of the studious aspects of the arts in The Karate Kid and others like it, but only minimally.
True martial arts practices incorporate both physical, mental and spiritual elements. Because of this overall holistic approach to the training, the martial arts are greatly beneficial to seniors, specifically form-based styles as they emphasize drills and aerobics.
The marital sciences address the importance of:
- Strength training
- Body awareness
- Cognitive function
Even with all the benefits, it’s best for those over 55 years of age to avoid contact sports like mixed martial arts, wrestling, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, or other high-intensity arts because it involves higher risks of breaking bones and stress on hips and knees which are typical problem areas for the seniors.
Check out these styles which are more suitable for beginners:
1. Yang Style Taijiquan
The Yang family in the 19th century created this popular form of martial art that is also known as Tai Chi. It utilizes slow and intentional movements that promote health all the while teaching self-defense. It also helps you avoid many health issues that may arise in old age. What also makes it great for the family in their golden years, is that it is repetitive and the whole frame movement provides a physical challenge with low impact.
It is a style of martial arts that is based on the I Ching, a philosophy based in Taoism. It is considered an internal practice, which focuses on the mental, spiritual, and energetic body of the individual.
This art also focuses on stance training, stretching and strengthening of the muscles which are especially necessary for seniors as they age. Circle walking is the defining stance of Baguazhang, and the students of the art first learn flexibility and proper body alignment which are beneficial to people older than 55.
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3. Wing Chun
One of the most popular styles of martial arts is Wing Chun due to the Ip Man movie franchise. This method emphasizes balance and awareness of the body and its movements. This perception is critical in preventing falls that is a significant concern for the elderly.
This martial art also places more importance on doing things in a relaxed but focused manner for maximum speed and mobility. Brute strength is not necessary for this sport, and that is excellent for seniors.
It is a martial art that began has its roots in Chinese martial arts but was adopted and developed within in the Japanese martial art. With modified forms for the elderly, this sport can improve balance, reaction times, and postural control which is necessary for fall prevention.
It is a modern Japanese martial art. This art places emphasis on receiving an attack and harmlessly redirecting it. This technique is excellent for active seniors because it pursues focus and controlled relaxed movements as well as proper hip, joints and shoulder movements, and flexibility. The elderly need to focus on this type of conditioning.
Whether you want to learn self-defense or merely strengthen your body, martial arts is an excellent way to empower yourself. Knowing that you have the capabilities to be agile and robust is a great to build muscles and maintain confidence. The only limitation you have is in your mind.
Augustine “Gus” Farias, co-founder of Sonoma Home Health, has over 20 years in the senior care industry from home health, assisted living and hospice care. This is the perfect place for seniors to live happily, exercise, and live healthy.