It’s never too late to take care of your body, especially after the age of 50. Not only does your body have higher maintenance needs, but you also need to protect it from various age-related ailments.
Plus, it helps improve mental health and cognition. Honestly, there are very few reasons why a person shouldn’t exercise.
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Why is exercise important for older adults?
If the benefits of exercise could be encapsulated in a pill, we’d have empty hospitals across the US
While there are myriad different benefits that come from exercising, some of the most important are as follows.
- Improved heart health.
- Better lung health.
- Reduced risk of certain types of cancer.
- Improved cognition.
- Cheerful mood.
- Stronger muscles and bones.
Of course, health problems can occur at any stage of life. However, they can be much more devastating to an older adult. So it’s important to incorporate some form of exercise into your life, no matter your age.
Start exercising later in life
When you’ve spent most of your life without exercising, it can be difficult to make the switch.
However, it’s important to note that “exercise” doesn’t necessarily mean exhausting yourself at the gym.
In fact, you can meet minimum exercise requirements by participating in many different activities.
For example, walking, bicycling, playing tennis, golfing, and other activities can be considered physical exercise.
All you have to do to meet the minimum exercise requirements is complete 150 minutes of cardio per week. Therefore, a weekly schedule like this would suit your cardio needs:
- A 3-set tennis match.
- A short hike.
- A leisurely bike ride.
Special considerations for later training
As already indicated, many older adults suffer from health problems more often than younger people. In this section, we address some of the most common problems faced by older adults.
These ailments need to be considered when these individuals begin an exercise program.
Osteopenia is a weakening of the bones. When this weakening reaches a certain limit, the patient is diagnosed with osteoporosis.
A diagnosis of osteoporosis means the person is at high risk of fracture. In fact, even sneezing can cause a fracture in a person with osteoporosis.
For this reason, special care must be taken when recommending exercise for this population group. There are a few different movements and types of exercises that should be avoided by people with weakened bones.
- High impact exercise. This is especially risky for people with bone disorders. Jumping, jogging, and other high-impact activities should be largely avoided by this demographic.
- Significant turning and rotation exercise. The rotation puts a lot of stress on the spine and other joints. People with osteoporosis should be very careful when participating in exercises that involve rotational movements.
- Heavy elevators. If you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis or osteopenia, heavy lifting should only be attempted under the close supervision of a qualified professional. These movements put weakened bones at high risk.
Vascular and heart diseases become more common with age. One of the most common heart-related problems in the elderly is high blood pressure.
High blood pressure (hypertension) is a delicate condition because it usually cannot be diagnosed without having your blood pressure checked. Fortunately, most medical professionals routinely take blood pressure measurements during doctor visits.
In the short term, high blood pressure is not a big problem. However, it takes a toll on the heart. Therefore, over many months or years, high blood pressure can lead to a higher incidence of stroke, heart attack, and other problems.
Older adults with hypertension who are beginning a new exercise program should consider working with a coach.
Personal trainers know their bodies and are adept at dealing with people with high blood pressure.
These experts will advise you on how long to rest and how hard to exert yourself based on your response to the exercise. You should never take chances when it comes to your heart health!
There are many different types of arthritis. By far the most common form, however, is osteoarthritis (OA). This condition is caused by wear and tear on the joints.
As might be expected, older adults are at higher risk for OA. This is because they have been through strenuous activities for many years that have put a strain on their joints.
If you have arthritis, you should exercise caution when beginning an exercise program. The same recommendations largely apply to people with osteoporosis and osteoarthritis.
These individuals should avoid high-impact exercises, movements that cause joint pain, and heavy weight lifting.
When to see your doctor
If you start exercising later in life, it’s a good idea to keep your doctor in the loop. Your doctor can provide recommendations on types of exercise to avoid, ways to manage medication, and other areas of your new endeavor.
Your doctor is there to help you. You want to get in shape through exercise and a healthy lifestyle.
So if you start exercising as an older adult, get checked out by your doctor!
Populations who should avoid exercise later in life
Almost everyone can participate some form of exercise. Admittedly, there are some extremely rare conditions where exercise of any kind worsens a person’s health over the course of a lifetime. However, most contraindications to sports are temporary.
For example, someone who has had open-heart surgery would likely not be encouraged to exercise the day after the procedure.
However, after a few days or weeks, these postoperative individuals can participate in the guided, progressive exercise.
Exercise Plan for Older Adults: Example
In this section I will create a sample exercise plan for older people. This should not be viewed as a one-size-fits-all plan. Rather, this is just an example that you can use as a template to create your own training program.
During the week you can do resistance training on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
On each of these days, you can do sit-to-stands, wall push-ups, and rows with a dumbbell or weighted object. Do 10 reps and three sets of each exercise with as much rest in between as you need.
To reach your cardio minimum, you can go for a moderate walk for 30 minutes five days a week. You can choose which days of the week you want!
Ideally, you’ll be doing flexibility and mobility exercises on a daily basis. However, you should aim to do mobility work at least 3 days per week.
Specifically, you can do a seated double hamstring stretch, a piriformis stretch on your back, and a cat-cow stretch in each session.
This routine could be done 3-7 times a week. You should hold each stretch for 30 seconds and do 4 reps of each stretch.
progression of the program
The sample workout above is a great way to stay fit and improve your health. However, it’s a good idea to evolve your program over time.
You can do this by slowly increasing your reps, increasing your workout time, and/or increasing your intensity. Just do a little more each time than you did in your previous session!
You can do it!
If you’re nervous about starting exercise later in life, you’re not alone. It can be scary to start exercising as an older adult. You might be worried about looking silly at the gym or a whole bunch of other things.
However, you should know that no one is judging you. Everyone trains to improve their own health and performance, just like you!
If you need help on your training journey, there are many personal trainers ready and willing to help you today!
- Langhammer, B., Bergland, A., & Rydwik, E. (2018). The importance of physical activity in older people. BioMed research internationally, 20187856823. https://doi.org/10.1155/2018/7856823
- Mandolessi, L. (2018). Effects of physical activity on cognitive function and well-being: Biological and psychological benefits. Frontiers in Psychology, 2018, https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00509
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