You’re never too old to start exercising. Whether you focus on cardio activities, strength training, or a combination of both, regular exercise of any kind will help your body stay strong and can add years to your life. And if physical activity keeps your aches and pains at bay (hint: it probably will), you’ll feel a lot better, too!
But many seniors find exercise intimidating, especially when a doctor suggests they begin a new routine after several years of inactivity. Let’s explore what every senior should know before starting an exercise program.
It’s safe! Just start slowly
First things first: there’s a myth circulating that says seniors shouldn’t exercise because their bodies are too prone to injury. “Don’t ride a bike,” they say. “You might break a hip!”
While it’s true that every kind of exercise involves some risk (young people fall off their bikes, too), the consequences of not exercising include a heightened risk of heart disease, diabetes, and bone loss – the health ailments that most commonly affect older adults.
Seniors who ease into an exercise program and opt for safe, low-risk activities will reduce the overall likelihood of experiencing injury or illness over the long term. Exercise is an investment in your current and future well-being, and the “prone to injury” mentality only discourages seniors to maintain a sedentary lifestyle. Ironically, those who don’t exercise for fear of injury are more likely to be injured or become ill than seniors who are active!
If you’re worried about getting hurt, ask your doctor about exercises that will improve your health without exposing you to a high risk of injury. Specifically, you should ask about what activities are safe for you, how hard and how often you should exercise, and what your goals should be.
Exercises suited to older adults
In your 40s and 50s, you may have noticed an increasing frequency of joint and muscle aches. As you age, your body becomes more susceptible to these problems, and certain kinds of exercise can exacerbate them.
Running, for example, is a popular form of cardiovascular exercise, but it can also be rough on your joints. Seniors who haven’t been active for some time might try low-impact exercises like cycling or swimming that offer cardiovascular benefits without all the joint-pounding stress.
Be sure your exercise routine also incorporates balance and strength training, which can strengthen bones and help you avoid mobility-related health conditions that affect many seniors. Weight-bearing exercises will improve bone health, and you don’t even need expensive equipment to get started! Consider simple bodyweight exercises you can perform in any open space in your home. Think pushups, crunches, and squats. Yoga is another great option that can be tailored to any strength or ability level.
Know your comfort level
While starting an exercise routine is sure to improve how you feel and help you avoid many harmful diseases, always be sure the routine fits your comfort level. If your doctor suggests cycling but you don’t trust your balance on a bike, try water aerobics. Live near a busy thoroughfare? Taking a brisk walk next to traffic might not be safe, so focus on indoor bodyweight exercises instead.
No matter your skill level, you should feel confident about the program you pursue. Never feel pressured to do exercises you think are too difficult. You’ll get there one day. Just keep up the routine. Keep trying.