Making exercise a goal for older adults

It’s a new year, which means it’s also time for new goals and resolutions. For many, adding exercise to daily life is a common goal — and for good reason.

But what if you are an older adult? While seniors can certainly benefit from regular exercise, starting an exercise regime as an older adult can be challenging. Here are some ideas on how to  make exercise an achievable goal for older adults.

Exercise for older adults — a great goal and a good idea!

Exercise and physical activity are good for just about everyone, and of course, that includes older adults. The benefits of regular exercise for older adults include, just to name a few:

  • Helping with weight control.
  • Reducing the risk of heart diseases.
  • Managing blood sugar and insulin levels.
  • Improving mental health and mood.
  • Keeping mental skills sharp.
  • Strengthening bones and muscles.
  • Improving balance and reducing the risk of falls.
  • Improving quality of sleep.
  • Increasing the chance of living longer.

Four types of exercise

There are four main types of exercise, and each type is different.

  • Endurance, or aerobic, activities increase your breathing and heart rate. Brisk walking or jogging, dancing, swimming, and biking are examples.
  • Strength exercises make your muscles stronger. Lifting weights or using a resistance band can build strength.
  • Balance exercises help prevent falls
  • Flexibility exercises stretch your muscles and can help your body stay limber

Doing all four types helps a person gain more of the benefits listed earlier in this article.

Getting back into exercise

If the older adult has not been active, he or she should start slowly and work up to your goal. How much exercise a person needs depends on your both age and health. Check with your health care provider to better discern what type of exercises and how much exercise should be done.

Here are some steps that older adults can take to make exercise a part of their regular routine.

  • Make everyday activities more active. Even small changes can help. Get up and stretch more.Walk more often. When going out, park farther away from the destination. Take the stairs, if possible.
  • Be active with friends and family. Having a workout partner might help an older adult enjoy exercise more and be more motivating. Plan social activities that involve exercise. Consider joining an exercise group or class, specifically for older adults.
  • Keep track of your progress. Keeping a log of the activity or using a fitness tracker can help with motivate an older adult to reach his or her exercise goals.
  • Make exercise more fun. Try listening to music or watching TV while exercising. Also, mix things up a little bit. It’s easy to get bored doing just one type of exercise. Try doing a combination of activities to keep things interesting.
  • Find activities that you can do even when the weather is bad. Walk around a mall, climb stairs at home, or follow an exercise program on TV when the weather makes outdoor exercise too difficult.

Discover the joy of walking

Probably the easiest and most convenient exercise for older adults to do is walk. Walking is free, it takes no special equipment, and it can be done almost anywhere. Walking helps:

  • Burn calories
  • Improve one’s fitness level
  • Lift one’s mood
  • Strengthen bones and muscles

If safety is a concern, walk with a friend or family member. Besides being safer, walking with a partner can provide the social support needed to meet exercise goals.

If there isn’t time for a long walk, take several short walks instead. For example, instead of a 30-minute walk, add three 10-minute walks to your day. Shorter spurts of activity are easier to fit into a one’s schedule.

Don’t let age prevent you from creating and reaching exercise goals and all its benefits for the new year. Visit a health care professional to set up a program that’s safe, effective, and achievable.

Information courtesy of MedlinePlus.gov, the U.S. National Library of Medicine, and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
Health Information Center.