Top Exercise Tips for SeniorsSeptember 1, 2022
You know exercise is good for you. Even a short list of the health benefits confirms the fact that sitting less and moving your body more offers significant rewards, from better brain health and stronger bones and muscles to reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. But … you say … your knees hurt when you run now, your sinuses will not tolerate Downward-Facing Dog, and shoulder pain is interfering with your golf swing. Don’t worry. Whether you’ve fallen out of the exercise habit or fallen into an exercise rut, these exercise tips for seniors will inspire you to find new ways to get moving and stay active.
Tip #1: Start Slowly
If it’s been a while since you had a fitness routine, getting back into shape can be a daunting prospect. Start small. A walk around the block, two minutes on the treadmill or a few laps in the pool are better than no movement at all. If you tackle too large a goal right away, you’ll likely feel tired, sore and defeated. Small goals and small actions set you up for the feeling of success that will inspire you to keep going. In “One Small Step Can Change Your Life,” clinical psychologist Robert Maurer writes, “By taking steps so tiny that they seem trivial or even laughable, you’ll sail calmly past obstacles that have defeated you before. Slowly — but painlessly! — you’ll cultivate an appetite for continued success.”
It’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor before you start a new fitness program. And remember to listen to your body. It’s common to feel tired or to have achy muscles after working out, but if you experience pain, try a different exercise or ask your doctor for suggestions. There are many ways to keep moving, so if your knees hurt when you run, try a brisk walk instead. If yoga isn’t your cup of tea, maybe Tai Chi would suit you better.
Tip #2: Have Fun
Of course you have the wherewithal to do things you don’t enjoy, but if you make fitness fun, you’ll be even more likely to maintain your routine — in fact, you might even look forward to it! Listen to music, a podcast or an audiobook. Work out with a friend. Sign up for a dance class. Book lovers might enjoy reading on the treadmill or stationary bike. Or try combining fitness with your hobbies — photography buffs and birdwatchers can incorporate walking into their favorite pastime.
To make exercise fun, you may also need to modify your definition of “working out.” We tend to equate exercise with strenuous activities like running. However, the CDC recommends that adults strive to get 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise every week — that could include a brisk walk, water aerobics and biking on primarily level ground.
Tip #3: Vary Your Workouts
Seeking a variety of ways to move your body will keep things more interesting. Plus, varying your fitness routine so it includes all four types of exercise — endurance, strength, balance and flexibility — has health benefits.
- Endurance, or aerobic exercise, includes walking, swimming, biking and playing tennis. It improves your cardiovascular health, delays or prevents diseases that can be more common with age, and helps you continue to perform everyday activities.
- Strength training keeps your bones and muscles strong, so you can continue to climb stairs, stand up from a chair and carry groceries. Try working out with weights or resistance bands, or doing wall push-ups or planks to build muscle strength.
- Balance exercises, such as Tai Chi or standing on one foot, can help prevent falls.
- Flexibility exercises can help lengthen and stretch your muscles, preventing injury and supporting a full range of motion so it’s easier to perform daily activities that involve reaching, bending and stooping. Do yoga for flexibility and relaxation, or try these simple stretching exercises.
Tip #4: Treat Yourself
You’ll be more likely to keep up your exercise regimen if you build in a little extra motivation — small rewards that support your intrinsic desire to be fit and healthy. A small reward can be anything that feels like a treat, makes you feel appreciated, and is free or inexpensive. Make a delicious and healthy post-workout smoothie. Meet a friend for coffee after yoga class. Luxuriate in a hot bath. Give yourself a high five. Speak nicely to yourself — positive self-talk can improve motivation, boost effort and make your workouts more fun.
Tip #5: Make Exercise a Habit
You do many things every day without even thinking about them: brushing your teeth, putting on shoes before you run errands, wiping down the counter after fixing a snack. If exercise becomes as automatic as these everyday tasks, you’ll find that being active is part of your daily routine — and you’ll miss it on the days you can’t exercise. It’s easier to make exercise a habit if you find a regular time for it that fits your schedule — a daily walk after dinner or mid-morning yoga. Or link it to other routines: do a plank every morning after you brush your teeth or stand on one foot while you wait for your morning coffee to brew.
Active and Independent at Oaks Senior Living
One more exercise tip for seniors: Consider moving to a senior living community — they’re perfect for seniors who are interested in staying active. Social activities, fitness classes and a maintenance-free lifestyle give older adults plenty of opportunity to keep moving and to do the things they enjoy. Contact Oaks Senior Living to find out more about the active lifestyle in our independent living communities near Atlanta, Georgia.