In Part 2 of this series we explored some of the benefits of exercising that can accrue to Seniors. But starting or maintaining a regular exercise routine can be a challenge as you get older. You may feel discouraged by illness, ongoing health problems, or concerns about injuries or falls. Or, if you’ve never exercised before, you may not know where to begin. Or perhaps you think you’re too old or frail, or that exercise is boring or simply not for you.
No matter your age or your current physical condition, you can benefit from exercise. Reaping the rewards of exercise doesn’t require strenuous workouts or trips to the gym. It’s can be as simple as adding more movement and activity to your life, even in small ways. Whether you are generally healthy or are managing an illness—even if you’re housebound—there are many easy ways to get your body moving and improve your health.
Committing to a routine of physical activity is one of the healthiest decisions you can make. Before you get moving, though, consider how best to be safe.
- Get medical clearance from your doctor before starting an exercise program, especially if you have a preexisting condition. Ask if there are any activities you should avoid.
- Consider health concerns. Keep in mind how your ongoing health problems affect your workouts. For example, diabetics may need to adjust the timing of medication and meal plans when setting an exercise schedule. Above all, if something feels wrong, such as sharp pain or unusual shortness of breath, simply stop. You may need to scale back or try another activity.
- Start slow. If you haven’t been active in a while, it can be harmful to go “all out.” Instead, build up your exercise program little by little. Try spacing workouts in ten-minute increments twice a day. Or try just one class each week. Prevent crash-and-burn fatigue by warming up, cooling down, and keeping water handy.
- Commit to an exercise schedule for at least 3 or 4 weeks so that it becomes habit, and force yourself to stick with it.
- Stay motivated by focusing on short–term goals, such as improving your mood and energy levels and reducing stress, rather than goals such as weight loss, which can take longer to achieve. And if you do need or want to lose weight, recognize that weight loss will most likely be a side benefit to your exercise program anyway.
- Recognize problems. Exercise should never hurt or make you feel lousy. Stop exercising immediately and call your doctor if you feel dizzy or short of breath, develop chest pain or pressure, break out in a cold sweat, or experience pain. Also stop if a joint is red, swollen, or tender to touch.
Staying active is not a science. Just remember that mixing different types of exercise helps both reduce monotony and improve your overall health. Our caregivers help seniors with their exercise and physical therapy routines by reminding them to do them and by monitoring them. The key is to find activities that you enjoy. In Part 4 we’ll look at the four building blocks of senior fitness and how they can help your body.
Till next time.