Should I still be exercising as I get older?
Here at Simply Fit we have a wide range of members, and many in their 60s, 70s & even 80s. Our oldest member, Angela is 89 and she comes in three times per week, while our second oldest member is 86 and you will see Jo in the gym nearly every weekday. Feeling inspired yet? If not, read on.
There are many reasons why we have a tendency to slow down and become more sedentary with age. It may be due to weight gain, a lack of mobility, health problems, pain issues, or concerns about falling. Or perhaps you think that exercising really isn’t for older people and there are too many “fit young things” out there now. But as we grow older, staying active becomes more important than ever to our health. Having regular bouts of exercise or movement can help boost your energy, maintain your independence, protect your heart, and manage symptoms of illness or pain as well as your weight. Not to mention that regular exercise is also good for your mind, mood, and memory. No matter your age or your current physical condition, these tips can show you simple, enjoyable ways to become more active and improve your overall health and outlook.
What are the benefits of exercise for older adults?
According to the World Health Organisation, leading a sedentary lifestyle is one of the 10 top causes of death and disability for the older population. Regular physical activity offers many health benefits to older adults. Maintaining good balance and muscle strength are important to ensure we can continue to be active without the risk of falling.
Physical Health Benefits
Helps manage your weight. As our metabolism naturally slows with age, maintaining a healthy weight is a challenge. Exercise helps increase metabolism and builds muscle mass, helping to burn more calories.
Reduces the impact of illness and chronic disease. People who exercise tend to have improved immune and digestive functioning, better blood pressure and bone density, and a lower risk of Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, osteoporosis, and certain cancers.
Improves mobility, flexibility, and balance. Exercise improves our strength, flexibility and posture, which in turn will help with balance, coordination, and reducing the risk of falls. Regular exercise can keep your joints mobile while strength training also helps ease the symptoms of chronic conditions such as arthritis.
Psychological Health Benefits
Improves sleep. Research now demonstrates how important sleep is for our overall health. Regular activity can help us to fall asleep more quickly, sleep more soundly, and awaken feeling more energetic and refreshed.
Boosts mood and self-confidence. Exercise is a huge stress reliever and the endorphins produced can actually help reduce feelings of sadness, depression, or anxiety. Being active and feeling strong naturally helps us feel more self-confident.
Keeps your brain active. Activities like reading, playing Bridge or crossword puzzles can help keep our brain active, but little comes close to the beneficial effects of exercise on the brain. It can help brain functions such as multitasking and creativity and can help prevent memory loss, cognitive decline, and dementia. Getting active may even help slow the progression of brain disorders such as Alzheimer's disease.
Overcoming Barriers to being Active
Starting a regular exercise routine can be hard at any age, and it definitely does not get any easier as we get older. It is normal to be discouraged by health problems, aches and pains or being nervous about injuries and falls. Plus, if you have never exercised before, you may not know where to begin, or you might feel like you are too old or frail, and you just cannot live up to the standards you set when you were younger. Or perhaps you just think there is much more interesting things to do now than exercise.
While these may seem like good reasons to slow down and take it easy as you age, they're actually better motivations to get moving. Becoming more active can energise your mood, relieve stress, help you manage symptoms of illness and pain, and improve your overall sense of well-being. And reaping the rewards of exercise doesn’t have to involve strenuous workouts or trips to the gym. It’s about adding more movement and activity to your life, even in small ways. No matter your age or physical condition, it’s never too late to get your body moving, boost your health and outlook, and improve how you age.
Excuses you need to stop telling yourself
Excuse 1: There's no point to exercising. I'm going to get old anyway.
Reality: Regular physical activity helps you look and feel younger and stay independent for longer. It also lowers your risk for a variety of heath conditions, including Alzheimer’s and dementia, heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers, high blood pressure, and obesity. And the mood benefits of exercise can be just as great at 70 or 80 as they were at 20 or 30 years of age.
Excuse 2: Exercise puts me at risk of falling down.
Reality: Regular exercise, with building strength and stamina, prevents loss of bone mass and improves balance, which will reducing your risk of falling. But if you do fall, you will be strong enough to pick yourself back up again.
Excuse 3: It’s too demoralising, I’ll never be as quick or strong as I used to be
Reality: Changes in hormones, metabolism, bone density, and muscle mass mean that strength and performance levels unfortunately do decline with age, but that doesn’t mean you can no longer gain a sense of achievement from physical activity or improving your health. The key is to set goals that are appropriate to your age. And remember: a sedentary lifestyle takes a much greater toll on athletic ability than biological aging.
Excuse 4: I’m too old to start exercising now.
Reality: You’re never too old to get moving and improve your health! In fact, adults who become active later in life often show greater physical and mental improvements than their younger counterparts. If you’ve never exercised before, or it’s been a while, you won’t be encumbered by the same sports injuries that many regular exercisers experience in later life. Just begin with gentle activities and build up from there.
Excuse 5: I can't exercise because I'm disabled / Injured / in Rehabilitation.
Reality: There are many exercises that can be done, it is about adjusting acitivies to your limitations. Some examples of exercises that you might be able to do could be in a chair lifting light weights, stretching, or chair aerobics, chair yoga, and chair Tai Chi to increase range of motion, improve muscle tone and flexibility, and promote cardiovascular health. You might find the recumbant exercycle at the gym easier than the upright bike or vice versa.
Excuse 6: I'm too weak or have too many aches and pains.
Reality: Regular activity and movement can help you manage pain and improve your strength and self-confidence. Many older people find that regular activity not only helps slow down the decline in strength and vitality that comes with age, but actually improves it. The key is to start off gently.
How do you safely start an exercise program?
Getting active is one of the healthiest decisions you can make as you age, but it’s important to do it safely.
Get medical clearance from your doctor before starting an exercise program, especially if you have a preexisting condition. Ask if there are any activities you should avoid. For example, often people with heart or high blood pressure should not lift weights above their head.
Consider health concerns. Keep in mind how your ongoing health problems affect your workouts. For example, If you are diabetic you may need to adjust the timing of medication and meal plans when setting an exercise schedule. You may even need to ensure you have some Glucose lollies on hand, although Simply Fit keeps some in the first aid box.
Listen to your body. Exercise should never hurt or make you feel terrible. Stop exercising immediately and call your doctor if you feel dizzy or short of breath, develop chest pain or pressure, break out in a cold sweat, or experience pain. And put your routine on hold if a joint is red, swollen, or tender to the touch—the best way to cope with injuries is to avoid them in the first place. If you regularly experience pain or discomfort after exercising, try exercising for less time but more frequently throughout the day.
Start slow and build up steadily. If you haven’t been active in a while, build up your exercise program little by little. Try spacing workouts in ten-minute increments twice a day. Or try just one class each week. If you’re concerned about falling or have an ongoing heart problem, start with easy chair exercises to slowly increase your fitness and confidence.
Prevent injury and discomfort by warming up gently and cooling down at the end, plus don’t forget to bring a water bottle.
Commit to an exercise schedule for at least 4-6 weeks so that it becomes habit, and force yourself to stick with it. This is much easier if you find activities you enjoy.
Try some mindfulness. Instead of zoning out when you exercise, try to focus on how your body feels as you move—the pattern of your breathing, the way your feet strike the ground, your muscles flexing, for example. You’ll improve your physical condition faster, better help to relieve stress and anxiety, and more likely to avoid accidents or injuries.
Finally, in getting started safely we recommend getting a personalised program designed for you at the gym, that way it is designed exactly for your needs and requirements and you can have someone show you exactly how each exercise should be done.
If you would like to talk to us about starting a program, contact us today.