by Visiture LLC April 12, 2021

The Ultimate Guide to Senior Fitness and Tips for Staying Safe

We all get older. Time passes on and our bodies remind us year after year. Where you were once spry, flexible and ready to go, age has left your body feeling stiff, sore and worn out.

It’s not easy for anyone to accept, whether you feel your age in your back or notice it in the wrinkles in your reflection. But one of the best things we can do for ourselves, both when young and especially while aging, is regular exercise. 

Physical activity is beneficial for many different reasons, from improving heart health to maintaining body weight and bettering mental health to boosting daily energy and mental acuity. It’s great for seniors for the maintenance it provides. Think of it as a way to combat aging. We can’t beat time, but we can work to make our later years comfortable. Regular stretching and exercise is just one way to achieve that. 

But while physical exercise is essential to maintaining health through one’s senior years, it’s equally imperative that they do so safely. Age brings with it certain worries not considered in our younger years: 

  • Lower bone density 
  • Tighter muscles and ligaments
  • Weakened strength and endurance
  • Decreased lung capacity and oxygen intake
  • Weaker heart performance 

But these conditions don’t have to slow a senior down. While it might require some forethought before exercising, they can still exercise while staying safe. Whether it’s knowing your limits or wearing a medical alert bracelet while working out, seniors can remain fit, keeping themselves safe. 

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WHY SENIORS SHOULD REGULARLY EXERCISE 

The benefits of senior exercise are far-reaching, particularly for the ways it helps to improve and maintain overall health. Regular exercise helps in the following ways. 

PHYSICAL HEALTH

As our metabolism slows with age, many people will end up putting on weight. In part, it’s due to a slowing metabolism; on the other end, it’s due to becoming more inactive. Exercise helps improve our metabolism and increase muscle mass and bone density. Together, this can help improve the way you physically feel from day to day, all while reducing your overall weight. 

benefits regular exercise

Along with that, regular exercise can benefit you in various other physical ways, including:

  • Improving sex drive
  • Increasing flexibility
  • Reducing cramps
  • Reducing daily fatigue
  • Boosting daily energy
  • Fending off certain health complications and diseases—e.g.,heart disease, diabetes, strokes, high blood pressure, arthritis

MENTAL HEALTH 

When we talk about exercising helping mental health, the primary way is in how it helps with our daily mood. Regular exercise is found to be a stress reliever, helping to reduce chronic issues of depression, anxiety and sadness. Moreover, that reduction in stress can lead to better sleep—which is essential to maintaining health at any age. 

But the best thing for seniors is the benefits it provides to mental cognition and awareness. Regular exercise and games can keep your brain active, helping to aid brain functions while preventing mental diseases like cognitive decline, dementia and memory loss. Further, it can slow the aggressiveness of diseases like Alzheimer’s. 

Exercise for people living with dementia is important, as it will guarantee that the brain is functioning, as needed, from day to day. That focus on coordination, balance and physical strength is important for the brain-body connection. However, anyone exercising with the disease should wear a dementia bracelet. In the event they become confused or begin wandering, a bystander can provide them assistance, protecting them against becoming seriously injured or lost. 

 

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HOW TO GET STARTED IF YOU’VE NEVER LIKED FITNESS

If you were never a fit person, even while young, you haven’t hit the end of the road. There are ways to fight through the early stages of exercise—when your mind and body are screaming for you to stop, either out of boredom, disinterest or soreness. 

elderly group exercising together

If you feel that your body is telling you to stop because it’s in serious pain, STOP. There is no reason to injure yourself. However, if you’re just having a hard time finding interest in exercise, consider implementing some of the following: 

  • Put on a TV show while you work out
  • Listen to music, a podcast or an audiobook while you exercise
  • Make your workouts social by including friends
  • Wander through a city to get your steps in, all while window shopping 
  • Turn a day of travel into a day of exercise, driving out to a trailhead and going for a hike, stopping to take in the view and get photos every so often
  • Take part in a local fitness class to meet other people 
  • Grab coffee with a friend, but rather than sitting around, consider going for a walk together
  • Make time for short workouts if you’re feeling unnecessarily stressed, whether that’s doing some pushups, going for a short walk or planking for a minute or more
  • Volunteer as a dog walker to make exercise as fun as possible 

BEFORE YOU BEGIN EXERCISING 

Before you begin exercising, it’s important you check in with your doctor. Why? They can give you a thorough physical and inform you whether you are at risk for specific injuries or diseases. For instance, they can check your blood levels to determine if you need nutritional supplementation prior to working out; they can check to see if you have any heart blockages; they can measure the capacity and strength of your lungs; and they can check existing sore spots to determine whether you’re at risk of muscular, skeletal or ligament injuries. 

And if they notice anything worrisome, they can advise you with safe ways to exercise. Furthermore, if they don’t feel like an expert in that area, they can refer you to experts, whether that’s a physical therapist, a trainer who specializes in working with seniors or a nutritionist who can help you improve your overall health while losing any excess weight. 

BALANCING YOUR EXERCISE ROUTINES

Now, the biggest thing you need to consider when exercising is creating a routine. That routine requires balance, whether it’s balancing the type of exercises you’re doing or the way you prepare for your workouts. 

senior cardio workouts

First and foremost, make sure that you warm up, stretch and cool down while working out. What does this look like? Do a quick cardio workout prior to working out—this is your warm-up. Once you’ve broken a sweat, do some brief stretching to guarantee your muscles aren’t tight. 

After working out, follow your workout with a cool-down. This can include doing yoga poses or speed walking for 10 minutes. Once you’re done there, go ahead and do your deep stretching. This not only lends itself to increasing your flexibility over time, but it guarantees you protect your muscles and ligaments against future injury. 

Now, cardio is an important form of exercise. It gets your heart pumping, which improves blood circulation, oxygen intake and more. Senior cardio workouts can be as simple as going for jogs to jumping on a stationary bike to completing a short walk. Whatever you decide to take on, it can help improve your mental acuity while lessening daily fatigue and improving lung capacity. 

The most important thing is to not rush cardio workouts, though. If you’ve never been a runner, don’t think you can suddenly go out and complete a five-mile run. Start instead by going for walks, increasing your daily mileage over the course of a few weeks. Once you’ve successfully completed that, move on to completing short jogs during your walk. A good rule of thumb is to go for a jog, but walk every time a car drives by. This might feel excessive, depending on where you’re jogging, but it can help guarantee you don’t overwork yourself once starting out.  

Lastly, strength training should be a part of your overall exercise plan. If you want to stay safe, it’s a good idea to start by going to a local gym. Not only will they have dedicated machines that make it easy to exercise while staying safe, but there will be other fit people in attendance who can keep an eye on you—in the event that you try to lift too much weight or if it appears you’re in physical trouble.  

ACTIVITIES THAT WILL WORK FOR YOU

No workout should wear you out to where you’re out of commission for weeks to come. If you’re new to exercise, consider starting with easier, low-stress activities. Those include:

low stress activities

  • Walking
  • Spin classes
  • Swimming at public pools
  • Partaking in at-gym senior fitness classes
  • Physical therapy
  • Entry-level yoga
  • Tai chi

All of these exercises exert only a small amount of stress on your body, guaranteeing you won’t overwork your heart, mind or body in the process. And even if you’re still worried about starting out, you should ensure you wear your medical alert necklace. In the event that anything happens, you’ll have a form of protection hung right around your neck. 

MAINTAINING A HEALTHY DIET

Maintaining a healthy diet is one of the easiest ways to maintain your health in later years. A healthy diet can help reduce your chance of getting specific diseases and can limit the effects of diseases and conditions you might currently live with, whether that be diabetes, heart disease, Lyme disease, etc.

Here are some basic tips to follow when making food decisions each day:

  • Eat enough protein every day, but don’t rely on red meat—eat a variety of fish, eggs, poultry, beans, lentils and more
  • Consider going vegetarian four days out of the week 
  • Balance your macros to make sure you don’t rely too much on protein, carbs or fats each day
  • Don’t snack too much on processed foods
  • Limit the amount of added sugar you eat every day 

UNDERSTAND IT WON’T BE PERFECT

One of the most important things you should remember when getting started exercising is that things won’t go according to plan. No matter the age you start exercising, you’re bound to get cramps and minor injuries; you’re sure to be fatigued sometimes, not wanting to even think about exercising; and you’re not going to succeed at every workout, nor are you always going to hit your weight-loss goals. 

It can be frustrating, particularly if you never worked out while younger, but that stress shouldn’t hold you back. You’ll have your good days and your bad days, but don’t let it break your stride. Instead, use it to your advantage! 

Feeling especially fatigued one day? Take the day off and get your much-needed rest. Thinking you can lift a little more weight today? Try it out, but don’t overwork yourself. Feeling frustrated with your diet and wishing you could eat more after a workout? Go for it! Just try to make healthy food choices instead of relying on junk food. Or even if you want junk food one day, do it—just do it in moderation.  

seniors riding bicycles

SAFELY EXERCISING AS A SENIOR 

Before you begin exercising as a senior, make sure to check in with your doctor and evaluate your limits. Ask yourself what your current level of fitness is and how ready you are to begin working out. 

Don’t rush it if you’re not feeling it! Instead, go for daily walks while reducing your daily caloric intake (if you have some excess weight to lose). And whether you’re out roaming the sidewalks and trails or heading to the gym, make sure to wear your medical alert bracelet. In the event of a medical emergency, you can receive assistance from bystanders and EMTs while informing them of any existing conditions you might have. 

Whether you need a standard bracelet or a dementia bracelet, you can protect yourself with one of HEALTH iD’s bracelets

 

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