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4 Easy Steps for Starting Exercise as an Older Adult

Daily Exercising = Healthy Aging

You have probably heard the old adage,“It’s never too late to start.” This phrase could be applied to many activities and habits. However, the most significant ending to this statement, would be “…a consistent exercise program.”  Research has shown, that the benefits of physical activity are great. In fact, daily exercise for older adults serves as a prescription for preventing, treating, and managing chronic diseases and conditions including the leading causes of death in the United States, heart disease and cancer.

Improvements to one’s physical health can be made at any age. In general, people age differently from one another; factors that play a key role in this are overall lifestyle choices and irreversible genetics. We cannot control our genetics, so one would suggest modifying our lifestyle habits, which gives us the best chance of survival.

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A few lifestyle factors that make the biggest difference in physical health are abstaining from smoking, eating a well-balanced, healthy diet (consisting of whole foods), managing stress, monitoring cardiovascular markers including blood pressure and blood lipid profiles, and regular physical activities — all of which are great examples.

My Personal Experience with Older Adults & Exercise Benefits

Working as a certified Exercise Physiologist for the past 20 years, I have witnessed true success stories in older adults (65 years and older) who have survived accidents they should not have. However, because they were physically active prior to the accident, they survived Through rehabilitation, they are thriving once again.

I’ve seen older adults who exercise and easily perform their Activities of Daily Living (ADL’s) which has significantly helped their quality of life. Aren’t we are looking to move through our day with better ease? I would vote “yes!.”

I’ve watched numerous joint replacements with successful outcomes because the patients were committed to exercise routines for older adults prior to surgery. As one’s age increases, the risk of hip fractures increases by 95% resulting from a fall. One hip fracture can lead to numerous other health issues.

There are many ways to decrease your chance of falling, but physical activity is amongst the most impactful.  A well-rounded exercise routine for older adults is essential.  Exercise for older adults may include incorporating cardiovascular exercise such as:

  • Walking
  • Cycling
  • Swimming
  • Resistance training
  • Balance
  • Agility
  • Mobility
  • Coordination
  • Reaction time training.

While this might feel overwhelming, here are a steps to help keep you in line with your goals when choosing/re-starting your an older adult exercise program

Steps to Starting Exercise Routines for Older Adults

  • STEP ONE: Consult with your physician and inquire on whether there will be any negative affects to your exercise regimens based on the medication that you are taking.
  • STEP TWO: Commit to three months of regular exercise. When starting out, prepare your mind that you are going to adopt this new habit for 12 weeks and stick with it. Set a goal to be as consistent as possible. Believe it or not, by week 12, you will notice some differences in your quality of sleep, energy levels, overall mood, and an increase in stamina.
  • STEP THREE: Aim for 30 minutes of exercise on five or more days of the week (or 150 total minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity). What does moderate-intensity mean? It is an exercise intensity that is hard enough to break a sweat, but you could still carry on a conversation with your walking partner. You could break it into two 15-minute bouts per day, depending on your schedule.
  • STEP FOUR: Diversify your exercise routine types. Studies indicate that a combination of aerobic exercise, resistance training (2-3x/week), flexibility/mobility training and balance exercises yield the biggest benefits to one’s health and well-being. Focus on one area to begin the first few weeks, possibly aerobic exercise such as walking.

My top recommendation? Try a SilverSneakers class. I know what many may be thinking, “Those classes are for the elderly, and I am not in that category. I may age ten years just by trying a class,” but I encourage you to have an open mind and try a new class. You may be surprised!

These classes are designed to target those skills and functions that decline with age, including balance, strength, muscular endurance, agility, coordination, reaction time, flexibility and mobility. My goal in every class is to incorporate a variety of regimens to execute the best exercises for older adults.

 

7 Reasons Why Exercise Programs for Older Adults Are Beneficial

Healthy Aging Includes Exercise

As an older adult, regular physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for your health. It can prevent many of the health problems that seem to come with age. It also helps your muscles grow stronger so you can keep doing your day-to-day activities without becoming dependent on others.

Not doing any physical activity can be bad for you, no matter your age or health condition. Keep in mind, some physical activity is better than none at all. Your health benefits will also increase with the more physical activity that you do.

Physical Activity is Essential for Healthy Aging

  1. Cardiovascular-respiratory health: The heart, a muscular organ, is the most vital part of the human body. The lungs, which provides oxygen to the heart, is extremely important as well. As we age, the efficiency of the heart and lungs decreases; however, regular cardiovascular exercise slows the effects of aging.  Aim for accumulating 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week  such as walking, biking or swimming. Exercise at an intensity to break a sweat, but at a pace where you can still hold a conversation with a friend. I could sit here for hours and list all the ways that cardiovascular exercise improves the function of the heart, lungs and related components , but to cut to the chase…it is essential to do — almost as essential as breathing!

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  1. Psychological/Emotional well-being: Both aerobic training and resistance training yield significant improvements for depression and anxiety. Both also increase in quality of life including perceptions of body pain, vitality, social functioning, morale and sleep quality.
  2. Free Insurance: Think of exercise as additional health insurance. If you need unexpected surgery, joint replacements or experience an accident, the more fit you are prior to injury or surgery the quicker you’ll be on the road to recovery.
  3. Cognitive benefits: Studies show, a combination of aerobic training and resistance training decreases the risk of cognitive decline and dementia.
  4. Weight management: As we age, our metabolism with naturally slow. Therefore, without mindful eating and regular exercise, it becomes very easy for the pounds to creep upwards. Exercise is a natural way to burn calories and preserve muscle mass. The less weight our skeletal system carries, the happier our joints.
  5. Fall prevention: More than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falling. Hip fractures can lead to a lengthy list of undesirable conditions and a severe decrease in quality of life and independence. Keeping bones strong through weight bearing exercise and resistance training, maintaining agility, reaction time, joint mobility, kinesthetic awareness and balance are all important factors in preventing a fall from occurring. Luckily, these areas can be improved because exercise does prevent falls in older adults.
  6. Chronic disease and disability prevention: A regular exercise program, 150 minutes per week, will minimize the physiological changes due to aging and a sedentary lifestyle. Physical activity and exercise for older adults will increase the active life expectancy while limiting the development and progression of chronic disease and disabilties including certain types of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, arthritis, depression, and many others.

Any movement is better than NO movement! Exercise guidelines for older adults emphasize that for most health outcomes, additional benefits occur as the amount of physical activity increases through higher intensity, greater frequency, and/or longer duration.

The guidelines stress that if older adults cannot do 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week because of chronic conditions, they should be as physically active as their abilities and conditions allow.  It all starts with a single movement!

Start today, by trying one of our SilverSneaker classes.