Our senior years are the most crucial time period for maintaining health, yet we neglect exercise due to a lack of time and physical stamina. Consistent exercise and physical activity can improve a senior's health and quality of life. Living an active lifestyle can help maintain mobility and prevent injury as we age.
Before starting a physical fitness program, you should consult your physician. Through open communication, you can reach your fitness goals in a manner that is comfortable for you. When exercising, it's important to avoid anything that feels uncomfortable or painful. Whenever possible, stay within a pain-free range of motion.
“It’s important to make sure your doctor approves of you exercising and see if he has any instructions or limitations depending on your medical condition,” said Steven Johnson, Wellness Coordinator with Elderwood, a leading provider in senior care. “A fitness assessment is then in order. It is an important tool to provide feedback, track improvement, and motivate commitment.”
Get started, stay motivated, and find new activities with these fitness tips.
1. Find a fitness routine you enjoy
If you’re planning on committing to exercise, then the best way to ensure you will stay in the routine is by finding something that you like to enjoy doing.
If you’re not sure where to begin, according to Harvard Health, walking can help seniors stay mobile and independent.
“The easiest way to improve health is to walk more,” said Johnson. It’s an easy and manageable goal. This can be done in 10-minute segments, by walking 10 minutes in the morning, 10 in the afternoon, and 10 in the evening.”
It’s also important to have a regular schedule to maintain physical activity. “Everyone should be physically active about 5 to 6 days a week. That can be anything from walking to dancing. Ideally, everyone should also be strength training to build and maintain muscle mass about 2 to 3 days per week,” said Johnson.
2. Start slow and ease into a routine
Beginning a fitness routine can be daunting. It’s important to be kind to yourself and slowly ease into exercise.
After the first few workouts, you may experience some aches and pains with muscle soreness. Within a few weeks, you’ll start to notice less soreness and will gain more flexibility, strength, and endurance.
It is important to listen to your body if you feel like you need to rest. It’s OK to ease up and modify exercise or take a day or two off to allow your muscles and body to recover.
3. Incorporate healthy eating habits
While living an active lifestyle is important, incorporating healthy nutrition is essential to maintaining balance and fueling your body. Healthy eating can help seniors stay active for longer, which improves mental and physical health. A balanced diet that is comprised of unprocessed foods helps with energy, metabolism, and bone health. A colorful plate of food options can help you eat healthily. Fruits, vegetables, legumes, starches, and proteins should be bursting with natural colors on your plate. Try plenty of colorful foods you enjoy and then experiment with foods you haven't tried yet.
4. Keep challenging yourself
Once you’ve hit your stride with establishing a routine it’s important to challenge yourself and to continue setting goals as you progress through your fitness journey. In addition to providing motivation to improve, challenging yourself can also demonstrate what the body is capable of.
The best ways to try and challenge yourself is to increase the length of your walk, increase weights with strength training, or even look to incorporate a new workout. It’s important to check in with your healthcare provider and update your fitness assessment and get clearance before incorporating more rigorous workouts.
5. Reward yourself
As much as you should challenge yourself to reach your full potential, you should also celebrate and reward yourself whenever you reach a milestone. Starting and maintaining a fitness routine takes commitment and it’s not easy. Achieving goals throughout your fitness journey is something to celebrate, especially when you start noticing the results from your efforts.
“After a few weeks, people usually notice more energy, sleeping better and less difficulty performing activities of daily living,” said Johnson.