Fitness for seniors is an essential part of a healthy life for seniors and can make a huge difference in quality of life as you experience your golden years. Getting in shape and / or staying fit into old age helps you stay healthy, stronger, and less prone to serious injury from falls, etc.
But to get started, you need to mark your starting point so that you can chart your fitness route in the future. The first step for any prudent older person is a complete physical examination by their family doctor or other licensed healthcare professional. This step is necessary to inform you of any pre-existing conditions that may affect your exercise regimen or nutrition plan.
The second step in preparing to get started is deciding what you want to achieve in the short, medium, and long-term in the future. Are there areas of your health, current ability, or physical imbalances that need to be addressed first? Do you need to improve your cardiovascular system before you start lifting weights, or do you have mobility or flexibility issues that need to be resolved before you can begin to freely strengthen your body?
Building strength, increasing bone density, increasing flexibility, and increasing stamina are reasonable goals in any senior fitness effort, but it is important to remember that this is a lifestyle change, a marathon so to speak, not a sprint. It’s best to take small steps forward over time, evolving into a completely healthy lifestyle over time.
Speeding up the process can lead to injury, burnout, and worse, and it can be very demotivating if you’re suddenly faced with a level of exercise that you’re not ready for.
One tip: Before starting an exercise routine, even a simple starter routine for seniors, be sure to address issues related to your sleep and nutrition patterns. Do you sleep 7 to 9 hours a day? If you have trouble getting more than 4-5 hours of sleep a night, try adding a nap each afternoon to make up the difference. Your body does most of its healing while you sleep, so this is a great first step toward true senior fitness.
Once it’s under control and becomes a routine, do a little research online or at your local library to plan a healthy diet to follow, both for general health and to optimally recover from your upcoming workouts. The most important concern here is getting enough protein, as a shortage of protein from reduced appetite in older people is thought to be one of the age-related muscle wasting factors known as sarcopenia.
Once sleep and nutrition kick in, you can start your exercise routine as simply as going for a walk every day when the weather permits. Stop before exhaustion, but work on going a little further each day, whether it’s another half a block in town or another telephone pole on a country highway. Keep track of how far you walk each day; You’ll be amazed at how quickly your range increases as your body adjusts to it.
The next step is to start your resistance training – working with weights is arguably the most important part of any strength training for seniors. Start lighter than you think you need; Remember, your body is not used to using each and every muscle every day and it will take a little getting used to. You may feel a little sore the next day after workouts, largely because a full range of motion stretches your muscles and ligaments more than they are used to.
Using bands or dumbbells, choose one exercise per body part to start with, using compound exercises when possible. (A compound exercise is one that involves more than one joint, such as the shoulder and elbow or hip and knee.) Do a set of 8 to 10 reps of each exercise on the first day, keeping it very light, and see how it feels. the next day. If all is well, add a second set of each exercise to your routine on the third day and a third set on the fifth day if all is well.
Stick with the 3 sets per exercise for the next month or 6 weeks, exercising every other day or three non-consecutive days a week. If finishing the third set of an exercise starts to become easy, try a small increase in weight for that exercise in the next session, working slowly until you complete 8 to 10 reps over 3 sets.
By then, you will have marked your starting point and your senior exercise routine is ready to get started in earnest. Depending on your goals and what feels right to you, your path ahead will vary as time goes on. You may want to start adding cardio sessions to your workout or days off if you are looking to reduce body fat, you may want to add a second or third exercise per body part if you want to focus on building and toning muscles, Or you can safely work toward increasingly heavier weights if the current goal of your plan is to build strength.
But whatever your strategy, know that you are building a happier, healthier life for your old age and increasing the likelihood of waking up each day feeling ready to conquer the world. In many ways, senior fitness is the best investment you can make in yourself!