Here’s a guest post I think you’ll like. It’s from the writers of Assisted Living Today, an online resource regarding seniors and aging and covers a topic not commonly addressed on this blog: how martial arts can help seniors. Have a look and let us know what you think!
Benefits of Martial Arts for Seniors
When you think of martial arts, you do not usually think of seniors. Yet, the ancient practice can be extremely beneficial to people of any age. Baby boomers, sometimes referred to as “the fitness generation,” are approaching their senior years in record numbers. Studies show that maintaining an active lifestyle is not just for the young. A study released in 2010 suggests that seniors who take martial arts training may be less prone to falls and broken bones due to improved coordination. Seniors may enjoy additional benefits from practicing martial arts techniques as well.
Every form of martial arts helps increase your coordination. The moves in all forms of martial arts date back hundreds of years. It is not so much about having sheer muscle strength, as it is learning basic moves to improve focus and coordination. Martial arts classes specifically for seniors use thick pads to prevent seniors from injuring themselves while learning basic martial arts skills. Some instructors even claim older students are easier to teach since they are more willing to accept instruction and follow directions.
• Group Support
Any organized exercise class is a great way to make new friends. This is especially true of martial arts classes since participants often work with a partner. Friends in class can also help seniors work on certain techniques while receiving encouragement from classmates. Martial arts classes, by nature, tend to be conducive to a supportive environment. Developing friendships in class or bring friends along to class gives seniors an added incentive to stick with the classes. Think of it as a built-in support system. Seniors tend to find encouragement and support in a group setting.
• Mental Alertness
Numerous studies have found links between staying active and mental alertness. Martial arts certainly requires participants to stay alert and pay attention. Even when not defending yourself, it is still necessary to perform certain moves correctly to avoid injury. The alertness seniors hone while learning martial arts can be applied to just about any other aspect of daily life. A big part of martial arts is learning how to be aware of everything in the immediate environment. This can help seniors feel safer, even in unfamiliar surroundings.
• Increased Confidence
Confidence is a great motivator. Learning and mastering basic martial arts moves gives seniors confidence that can be applied to other areas of life. Remember, martial arts is more than just a set of techniques learned and practices in a classroom setting. The goal of any form of martial arts is to apply these techniques to the rest of your life. For seniors, this may include feeling increased confidence when going out alone or while walking around the neighborhood. Many of the techniques used in martial arts help with coordination and balance. Knowing some of these techniques increases confidence and provides a better sense of personal security and safety.
• Improved Flexibility and Strength
As seniors get older, they tend to lose a certain amount of strength and flexibility. Seniors can actually regain some of that with regular exercise, such as martial arts. The moves in martial arts do not require significant physical strength, but they do work most of the major muscle groups. Martial arts classes for seniors tend to place a greater emphasis on the movements rather than more physically demanding techniques. Results are still the same though. The goal of any form or martial arts is to become more flexible and coordinated to achieve a certain degree of balance and focus.
Some experts contend that martial arts itself is more or a mental challenge than a physical challenge, a concept that seems to work well with the mindset of most seniors. Martial arts classes are offered throughout most communities. The local senior center, which may even host some martial arts classes, can help seniors find classes in their area designed for seniors. A significant amount of time is not involved with basic martial arts classes. Even classes meeting once a week can still be beneficial to seniors. Once a senior learns the basic techniques, they can sign up for periodic refresher courses or even set up regular meetings with classmates to practice moves and stay in shape both physically and mentally.
Tom writes for Assisted Living Today, a leading source of information on a range of topics related to elderly care and Colorado Assisted Living.
I totally agree; tai chi is a great way to get seniors more active:))
I agree about the importance of staying active. Some of the most talented and respected martial artists I’ve trained with are in their 60’s, 70’s and even close to their 80’s. After a lifetime of training, they easily defy stereotypes about how healthy people can be as they age! I hope I can stay as strong and fit as they have!
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You might be attacked in a way that you were not trained for,
or you might use the wrong move for the attack taking place, or you suddenly
forget what you were supposed to do because of the stress of the moment.
As a fourth example, the martial arts usually
involve one-on-one fighting within weight classes and without weapons.
So I was up there every day standing there with [Jaden’s dad] Will watching Wu Gong put his
foot on Jaden’s back to make his legs go deeper and we see this
tear running down his cheek, and Will and I were looking
at each other going, ‘How can that not be in the movie.