We all should know how important it is to take regular exercise and the younger you start, the better for your overall fitness. But what if you’ve reached your later life without really doing any exercise? Is it too late to start, or do the benefits far outweigh the negatives?
Before we get started on some fitness tips for seniors who are beginners at taking regular exercise, it’s important to note that at any age, you should consult with your healthcare professionals before starting out. Exercise is supposed to improve the quality of your life, so the last thing you want is to cause more problems than you’re fixing!
Regular exercise (even if it’s gentle) has a profound effect on the body and mind at any age but as we get older, it can help us to stay in better shape for longer. It’s never too late to start though and there are many types of low impact exercises that you can enjoy in your senior years.
There’s no doubt that it’s harder to exercise when you’re older. General aches and pains are more noticeable and we can become very set in our ways. This makes it difficult to get started, let alone maintain an exercise routine. It’s not impossible though and the sooner you get going, the quicker you’ll be noticing the benefits.
Possibly the most obvious place to start your new exercise regime is stretching. If you’ve never really exercised before or it’s been a long time since you exercised, you’ll need to begin to gently stretch out all your muscles before considering anything more strenuous. There are numerous benefits to being more flexible, but one of the more overlooked is fall prevention. Improved balance through stretching, can reduce the occurrence of falls that lead to time in the hospital, etc.
Yoga is a great way to do the stretching you need and improve your balance. It’s also highly recommended for seniors because it’s low impact and doesn’t put too much strain on the body. One of the great things about yoga is that you don’t really need much equipment to start. Some loose, comfortable clothes and maybe a mat and you’re away. If you want to improve, then you could consider joining a class, but it’s not essential to get started.
Another big benefit of yoga is that there is a strong focus on breathing. Now, it may seem a bit strange to talk about the benefits of breathing, because without it, we simply can’t live. What tends to happen with a lot of people, is that they don’t breathe deeply enough and lung capacity can be reduced over time. Breathing properly is one of the best ways to reduce stress and anxiety and it helps reduce the occurrence of problems like chest infections like bronchitis, etc.
Walking is another great way to keep fit and is also something that can be done for little or no investment. A good pair of gym or walking shoes and you’re good to go. It’s also something that you can take at your own pace and gradually increase your speed or distance as you become more used to regular exercise.
If you want to measure your performance, there are a number of fitness trackers on the market that enable you to see the improvements you’re making week-to-week. Measuring improvements can be a great motivator!
As well as being great for your heart and lungs, walking can also help with high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Interestingly, there is very little difference between walking and running in terms of energy used. The only real difference is the time it takes to complete, but as a nice benefit, you actually get to notice more of your surroundings when you’re walking. Being present in the moment can help greatly with anxiety.
Needless to say, there are plenty of ways you can get some exercise during your day-to-day life and most of them come for free! Take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk instead of taking the car if it’s not too far and even find fun ways to build in some stretching activities across the day. The point is to start something, no matter how small that is, and build up to a level that works for you.
There are many sports centers and public sports facilities that offer very attractive rates for seniors, so check out your local town to find out what’s available. Swimming pools often have dedicated times for seniors too, so you don’t have to feel under pressure with a pool full of exuberant youth swimming lengths like they were born in the water! Swimming is a fantastic exercise that works on many levels and it’s great for people with decreased mobility, etc.
Sports centers are also a great resource for finding classes that you can take and there are many that are dedicated to the over 50’s. Not only can you get fit in a safe and welcoming environment, but you’ll also meet new people and become part of a community. Most people will be just like you, so you can encourage each other when motivation is lacking.
Tai Chi is another great way to increase fitness levels and has multiple benefits. The combination of slow movements and breathing can improve balance, reduce stress and ease the pain from conditions such as arthritis. A 2018 study even suggested that Tai Chi can improve cognitive function in seniors. A healthy body and a healthy mind is the golden combination!
In conclusion, there are many ways that the over 50’s can improve their fitness levels and many of them are either free or relatively inexpensive to start. The main thing is to actually start something and then find ways to gently improve your fitness as you progress. Join a class and look for what’s available in your area and you may find that you make some new friends who are on the same journey as you. Most importantly, have fun!