Monday, October 31, 2011

How Old is Too Old to Exercise?

Exercise After Retirement - Photo of man and dog from CDC
Can people get too old to exercise? Well, I'm not really the person to ask. Your own doctor is probably the best judge of whether or not exercise is safe for an individual, but growing older does not mean that you must become stagnant. Don't believe me? Head to your local gym or senior center and search for the Baby Boomers who have been regularly working out for years. They may be some of the most vibrant people you'll ever meet.
Fitness Recommendations for Baby Boomers

The CDC and the NIH both recommend that seniors remain physically active and hail the benefits of regular exercise for all ages if approved by a healthcare provider. In general, most seniors need approximately 150 minutes of aerobic activity per week and two days per week of some type of strength training to maintain better fitness levels.

I have personally seen the benefits of regular exercise in senior populations. Some Boomers in my exercise classes have made a point of coming up to me after class to tell me that they can do something that they could not do the previous year, such as working in flower beds without back pain. One mentioned that she used to see a chiropractor every week and had not needed to make an appointment in months. Still another participant said that his leg strength had increased when he was last tested at his doctor's office.

Exercise Equipment Used in Senior Group Exercise Classes ©Katrena
 Practical Tips for Staying Fit in Later Years

Somewhere along the line, many people who make fitness a way of life move away from using exercise as a way to meet a short-term goal. Those who use exercise in order to lose fifteen pounds often find that they drift away if they don't lose it quickly enough or if they meet that goal. Coming back and staying back can work much better for many people, and seniors in particular have a lot to lose if they lose their physical health.

Many older adults tell me they do it because they know they will regret it if they don't. They want to be independent for as long as possible. They want to function well. They want to enjoy life more and have found that if they maintain a healthy fitness routine, the time is well invested. Those who travel want to spend their time enjoying the sites rather than nursing injuries. Many seniors would rather burn out than rust out.

Does that mean you have to be able to lift your body weight and be able to dance the salsa in high heels? Some might go that route, but most seniors find it helpful to focus on the basics in exercise. Those who enjoy the outdoors may find a walking program to be an excellent choice. Many purchase home equipment like a treadmill, exercise videos, and dumbells to stay in shape at home, particularly if they are on a tight budget. A gym or senior center may provide great benefits such as free or lower priced personal training, group exercise classes, swimming pool, weight room, or other amenities. Some offer free or reduced rates for seniors who qualify.

Baby Boomers might steer clear of exercise classes designed for seniors. They might assume these classes would be too easy, not at all challenging, and only for "old" people. Don't judge a class from the hallway. The only way to get a feel for a class is to attend it, whether you are simply observing or participating. Group exercise instructors often offer a wide range of options for exercises in senior classes that take into consideration a wide variety of fitness levels and customize each class depending on participants.

Music selections and volume levels may be selected with senior tastes in mind, although these classes might also break into some more modern music as well. Many Boomers enjoy the music and fellowship while working toward fitness goals.

Work Out to Music From Your Own Era! ©Katrena
Seniors and Exercise
As a person ages, the body does as well. Physical fitness is not a panacea, but many Boomers find that time spent on keeping fit is time well invested. Exercising on a regular basis may not only help people to age gracefully, but those in the younger generation may also be inspired by the great example!

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