It’s definitely never too late to get started on a fitness program. Staying fit can help seniors stay mobile, feel better, and live a happier life. When it comes to starting a fitness program, however, many people have a lot of unanswered questions and are looking for helpful exercise tips for seniors.
We took the top 14 questions people have about senior fitness and asked an expert. Here are the answers.
Do seniors really need to work out?
Yes, seniors need to be working out. Inactivity can lead to a range of physical and emotional problems, so it’s important to keep physically active. Physical activity can help seniors boost their quality of life. It can also help combat common age-specific issues like osteoporosis and arthritis.
The first senior fitness tip is that you should start slowly, especially if you haven’t been very active for a while. And be sure to talk to your doctor before beginning anything new.
If a senior isn’t comfortable going to a gym, what are their options for ‘working out’?
Seniors who are not comfortable going to a gym can use at-home workout tapes, go for a walk, or take a dip in the pool. Those are just examples. There are many ways to incorporate fitness into daily life that don’t involve a gym membership!
If a senior is at risk of falling, what kinds of exercises can they do to lower that risk?
A major senior exercise recommendation is to talk with your doctor about what they believe is best. If you are truly at risk of falling, start with walking around the house more. Then progress from that.
Possibly start with standing and sitting multiple times in a row, using the chair to steady yourself while strengthening your muscles. Important – try yoga. Many times people feel uneasy because their muscles are not strong or stretched enough. Engaging in yoga stretches/poses can greatly benefit seniors.
What if a senior wants to join a gym but has no idea where to start?
There are many options. Some Acts communities allow local seniors to join their gym/wellness center. You can ask friends what works for them or look to local community classes/senior center to try new activities like yoga, water aerobics, or tai chi. Ballroom dancing is a great way to incorporate aerobic activity into your week.
What should a senior look for when choosing a personal trainer?
Seniors need to look for accredited and certified trainers and should always ask to see their credentials. All Acts fitness staff are certified! It’s important that a trainer understands your needs, goals, and limitations. If you do not feel comfortable with a trainer then consider getting a second opinion.
Are there trainers who specialize in serving older adults? How are they different?
Accredited trainers who specialize in serving older Americans are trained to incorporate modifications into regular training routines that were originally designed for a younger community. They know to focus on the areas that seniors need help with the most, such as improving bone strength and preventing muscle deterioration.
What are the signs of heart problems that seniors should be aware of when they work out?
Another vital exercise tip for seniors is to always to listen to your body. If something doesn’t feel right, then stop and seek medical attention. Also, always talk to your doctor and make sure they are aware of your physical activity. Most heart problems are diagnosed, or at least existing, prior to the start of physical activity. Engaging in physical activity can help the heart and it can help improve overall health problems, too.
Are there any diet considerations if a senior is about to start a new exercise regimen? How about protein powder?
Protein powder is fine, but use as directed and talk to a doctor prior to taking anything new, including all supplements. These are not endorsed/regulated by the FDA and therefore Acts trainers do not provide recommendations surrounding their use.
What fitness tips can you give seniors who are tired of their gym routine?
Try something new! Get a personal trainer, take a new class. If you normally work out indoors, try going outside. Work out with a friend or take a class so that you are accountable. It can also be more fun that way! And remember, you can achieve physical fitness in just half an hour a day of exercising.
Should seniors focus on aerobic activity or strength training?
Ideally, it should be a combination of both. Keep in mind that strength training requires 48 hours in between to recover. On those ‘off days,’ you can focus on aerobic activities like walking or swimming.
Plus, don’t forget about flexibility and balance. Balance is especially important because it helps prevent falls. Injuries from falls are a major reason for emergency room visits: according to the NCOA, falls are the top cause of fatal injuries in older adults. Strength training is one good way to improve your balance, especially if you focus on strengthening those core muscles.
How much muscle-strengthening activity should seniors aim for each week?
Seniors should try to exercise five days a week for 30 minutes a day, with a combination of aerobic and strength training. Of course, everyone starts at their own pace, so another senior exercise tip is to gradually work up to those levels.
How do you tell the difference between ‘moderate’ and ‘vigorous’ activity?
A good way to tell the difference is to see if you can recite something simple from memory out loud: for example, the ABC’s. If you are exercising and you can recite them aloud with zero effort then you are not exercising vigorously enough.
If you are exercising and you are unable to recite them due to lack of breath/demanding concentration then you are exercising too vigorously. You should aim to be able to recite your ABC’s or a poem while engaging in a little amount of heavy breathing and moderate effort.
If a senior is ‘frail,’ is exercise going to be effective?
Seniors should take note and remember that frailty doesn’t have to be a symptom of growing older. It’s actually a medical condition, and there are ways to intervene to prevent it. One thing seniors can do is exercise. Walking, in particular, is a good way to build your muscles, improve your balance, and increase your mobility... all things that can help prevent frailty.
Can exercise help control diabetes?
Yes – it can help prevent as well as control diabetes. That’s true for all ages. Exercise helps regulate blood sugar levels because muscles that are engaged in regular activity are using up that glucose… more so than when they’re at rest. Staying active is definitely a part of a sound diabetes management plan but as always, consult with your doctor first, before beginning any new physical activities.
Fitness is an Important Part of Daily Living
Acts senior communities promote physical health and wellness for residents in countless ways each week. From classes and clubs to fitness centers and helpful caregivers, residents find everything they need to live a healthy, active lifestyle. To find out more about exercise tips for seniors as well as exercise classes at Acts Retirement-life Communities, find an Acts community near you and schedule a tour.