Getting regular physical activity is a great way to stay healthy physically and emotionally at any age. For seniors, exercise can help with arthritis pain, joint stiffness, strengthening bones and muscle, and may even help keep your mind sharp and your spirits up. But starting an exercise program should take a little thought and planning — and always let your physician know before you begin.
Here are some of the basics for getting started on the path to a more healthy, active life:
- Make sure you have proper equipment. You don’t have to spend a lot of money. A good pair of walking shoes and some open space on the floor for stretching may be all you need. If you are biking, though, make sure you have a properly fitting helmet and your bike is in good working condition. For swimming, you may need comfortable swimwear and goggles.
- Stay hydrated. It’s important to drink adequate fluid, preferably water, before, during, and after you exercise. Even if you think you’re not sweating, you probably are – and your body needs those fluids replaced. Note: If you’re on fluid restriction, talk with your physician about what you should do.
- Start gradually, but keep it fun. Walking is an enjoyable and very doable exercise for almost any senior, and it can be done at the right pace for you. Change up your route so you don’t get bored, find a friend to walk with, or listen to some music on earphones – just keep it quiet enough so you can easily hear vehicles approaching. If you haven’t been active for a while, start with small goals, such as a number of minutes you want to exercise. Increase those goals as your body adapts and it gets too easy.
- Don’t overdo, but do challenge yourself. If you’re sick, your body may just need to rest until you’re feeling better. But, try to get exercise as much as possible — even if you don’t quite feel like it today. You may find once you get started, you feel great and are proud of your accomplishment for the day.
- Tell someone else where you are going or what you are doing. Telling someone you trust where you plan to walk or when you are going to exercise is a wise tactic for people of all ages. It’s a good security measure to have someone who can help in case you had an emergency. You may also wish to take your phone with you when you go for a walk.
- Do stretching exercises before and after your workout. Do not try to stretch before you’ve warmed up — you need to do 5-10 minutes of brisk activity before you can stretch your muscles, or you risk injury. Also stretch when your workout is done. Don’t stretch so far that it hurts, and gently hold each pose steady for a few seconds (no bouncing).
Most seniors who start an exercise program find that their physical and mental health improves, and they feel proud of what they can do. An active lifestyle is a great way to improve all aspects of your health, so talk with your physician about how you can get started.
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Content on our website is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, please call 911. Always consult your physician before making any changes to your medical treatment.