Over the age of 65, and sedentary, but want to start a structured physical activity program? Here are a few steps to safely begin a program and incorporate fitness into your life.
- Educate yourself on the weekly amount of structured activity needed. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention individuals 65 and older that are in good health and have no limiting health conditions should strive for 150 minutes of aerobic (also known as cardio) activity per week as well as two total-body strength workouts. Aerobic activity needs to be performed at a moderate intensity. For example, on a scale from 1 to 5 – one being the feeling of lounging around the house and five being out of breath – you need to be working at a level 3, possibly a 4. A total body (legs, back, chest, abs, arms) workout should be performed at least two times a week. These basics requirements are for those active older adults that want to maintain their health, weight and fitness level. If you are want to achieve greater goals (improved health, weight loss, train for an event) then up to 300 minutes a week of aerobic activity and possibly an additional day of strength training is required. Fortunately, your aerobic activity doesn’t have to be in 60 minutes increments. Ten minutes here and fifteen minutes there can make your aerobic activity cumulative. Strive to meet the basic recommendations for structured activity as described above. This is your first step in starting a physical activity program.
- Find an activity, or two, that you enjoy. Does your gym, health club, fitness or community center offer group fitness classes? What about local churches or social clubs? SilverSneakers® programming is offered nationwide and can be found at most of these establishments. Look into class schedules to determine what works best for you. What about participating in a sport such as swimming or golfing? This may be the time to start a private lesson or join a league. Perhaps meeting a friend for a walk, jog or hike is more appealing. Ask your children or grandchildren about gaming systems such as the Wii, XBox or Playstation. These devices, as well as good old fashioned exercise DVDs, will allow you to workout in the comfort of your own home and for much less than a gym membership . If all else fails, seek out a reputable and certified personal trainer for guidance. By opening your mind to what is available and identifying an activity (or two) that you enjoy, you’re more likely to exercise regularly.
- On a weekly basis, schedule and complete your activities. Just as you would schedule an appointment with your doctor or dentist, schedule your activities. Write it on your calendar or in your daily planner. Use an app if you are tech saavy. Be specific. For example, “2PM on Sunday. I will walk 3 miles outside.” or “Monday at 11:30AM I will attend the group strength training class at the community center with my friend, Bob.” Scheduling and completing your activities will ensure your long term success.
- Make adaptions based on your limitations. With any new activity, the body will need time to adapt. Learn to make adaptations for orthopedic or medical conditions (this is where a personal trainer can be helpful). Take things slowly to prevent injuries. Modify the exercise to fit your abilities. If you have been sedentary, 150 minutes of weekly aerobic training might be unrealistic. Instead, start with 15-20 minutes, three times a week. After one or two weeks, progress the duration or frequency of the activity. Continue in this manner until your body can handle the increased activity level. Making adaptations will ensure that your body responds properly to the increased activity level and help prevent injuries.
Even if you are sedentary and 65 years or older, it is never too late to start a physical activity program. The body has a unique ability to respond to exercise regardless of its age. Delaying or preventing disease, improving mood, managing stress, and pain management are all benefits of regular exercise. Use these steps to incorporate fitness into your life and you will soon be able to achieve the physical results and health benefits you’ve always wanted.