Exercise Tips for Seniors

Senior woman exercising with barbells

Exercise Tips for Seniors

“I am too old to start an exercise program.”

“I can’t move as well as I used to.”

“I can’t afford any equipment or classes.”

Have you heard these common excuses seniors give for not exercising? Have you given one or two of them yourself? The reality is that anyone of any age can gain better health with a more active lifestyle. In fact, as we age, exercise is more important than ever as a preventative health measure.

Unfortunately, there are some myths that keep many seniors from getting starting on a regular exercise schedule. Whether you are in overall good health or whether you are living with an illness, there are some easy ways to improve your health with exercise. The key is a planned approach. Here are seven tips to help get you started.

1. Check with your doctor.

If you haven’t been active for a few years, it is a good idea to check with your doctor before you begin any regular physical activity. Schedule a routine physical examination and ask your doctor for recommendations on activities you should do and any you should avoid.   

It is normal to feel some aches and pains when you start exercising. If you experience any of these warning signs, however, contact your doctor:

  • Breathing difficulty
  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Dizziness
  • Changes in sense of balance
  • Nausea or vomiting

2. Begin slowly.

Set reasonable goals for yourself as you begin your new exercise program.  It may take a while to get back in shape. Take it slowly. As you build up your strength and endurance, you can gradually build up your exercise program. This plan will help you avoid injury.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, adults should get a minimum of 2-1/2 hours of exercise per week. If able, you should do at least 10 minutes of vigorous exercise at one time. Then you can spread out the rest your activities over the course of the week. By taking a 10- to 15-minute walk each day, for example.

3. Make it easy and inexpensive.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that you need expensive equipment to stay fit or that you need to join a fancy health club. There are many low-cost or no-cost ways to exercise.

Many schools and parks have outdoor tracks available for public use. Your local shopping mall may have a planned indoor walking route. Some malls even offer special hours for mall walker clubs. Check out your local YMCA for a low-cost senior membership. Most YMCAs offer swimming pools, exercise equipment such as stationary bikes and treadmills. Then there are also racquetball and basketball courts. Some have a variety of classes just for seniors.

Look for opportunities to do activities you used to enjoy. Why not try a bowling league or a softball team. When you renew these long-loved activities in your life, chances are good that you will meet new friends and you will both look and feel better.

4. Make exercise part of your routine.

Some people struggle to find time to exercise. Since it is so important to your health, start giving it more priority in your daily schedule.

Here a few ways to sneak exercise in:

Park your car a little further from your front door or from you destination to get in some extra walking.

Take the stairs instead of the escalator or elevator whenever possible.

Keep an exercise bike near the TV. Watch and pedal.

Walk around the playing field at your grandchild’s soccer or baseball game.

Stand more often instead of sitting.

5. Make it interesting.

Add some conversation to your exercise by working out with a friend, neighbor or family member. You may get better results and stay more motivated when you have a partner.

If you are going solo, you can add interest to an otherwise boring workout is by listening to music or an audiobook on headphones while you exercise. You may find it easier to walk that extra block or ride that extra lap until the next song or chapter.

6. Be careful.

Warm ups and cool downs are important for anyone who exercises, but they are especially important for seniors. Do some stretches before you begin. Then start out slowly as you work up to a quicker pace. Slow down again to cool off before you complete your session.

Also, make sure you are drinking enough water, especially in warm weather. Take a bottle of water along with you when you exercise. Apply sunscreen if you will be exercising outdoors.

Wear comfortable loose-fitting clothing and invest in some well-fitting, supportive shoes that are appropriate for the activity you will be doing

7. Set goals and reward yourself when you meet them.

Did you just walk your first mile in a long time? Did you just swim laps for 20 minutes? It’s time to reward yourself for meeting those goals. It can be as simple as stopping for a cup of coffee or a cold drink with your exercise partner or purchasing a bouquet of flowers for your table. You deserve it!

Regular exercise can help you maintain your independence, increase your energy, and manage pain.  Studies have shown that exercise can even delay some of the symptoms of aging.

In a study published last year in the Harvard Health Letter, University of British Columbia researchers found that aerobic exercise may increase the size of the part of the brain associated with learning and memory, the hippocampus. Keeping active then is  a key factor in staying healthy and fit.

1 Comment
  1. Most seniors may think that exercise is not needed for them anymore. But that’s a big mistake. Seniority is the time when you need it most. Follow these tips if you want to have a safe exercise.

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