Senior Health & Fitness
Exercise can help anyone, regardless of age. Here are some things to consider in helping a senior get into shape:
1. Get a checkup
Meet with your healthcare provider to see whether you will need to consider any special modifications before starting an exercise program. If necessary, get a clearance to begin a program.
2. Know your options
Before starting any program, examine your options. Pick a program you know you will enjoy. Some individuals like to go to a gym and do a structured workout, while others enjoy a neighborhood walking club. Either will help improve your fitness, ability to function and quality of life, provided you do it regularly.
3. Determine your participation style
Would you prefer taking a class or going solo? Are you a morning or night person? Does indoor fitness appeal to you, or would you prefer to exercise outside? Could you dedicate large blocks of time to physical activity or could you fit only shorter, more frequent intervals into your schedule?
4. Start slowly
Many people are eager to get started and sometimes overdo it, which usually makes them sore and can force them to spend time on the sidelines. Start slowly and build up over time.
5. Make a date
Find a buddy to exercise with you and keep you motivated. Whether it’s a friend to walk with in your neighborhood or a personal trainer in a gym, that appointment makes it more likely you will do the walk or workout.
6. Set specific short and long-term goals
Make goals as specific as possible. For example, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, do a brisk, 10-minute walk in the morning before your shower, at lunch time and after dinner. Being specific means you are planning for activity in your day and making it a priority. Is there an activity you would like to do that you feel physically incapable of at the moment, but may be able to do with a little effort? Set a long-term goal to help you do it.
7. Make a list
List the benefits you expect from your physical activity program, then make sure these are realistic and reasonable. Many people expect enormous benefits, such as losing 30 pounds in a month. When these benefits don’t materialize, they feel disappointed and relapse because they feel like they have failed. Try to make the benefits about things you can control, rather than an outcome (such as weight). Build your list of benefits as you increase your physical activity.
8. Make another list
List all the reasons to be physically active – things like decreasing stress or depression, stronger bones, greater strength and flexibility to help maintain independence, increased energy, better sleep, etc. Keep this list in a visible place as a daily reminder of the long-term rewards.
9. Invest in your health
Do you want to spend money on joining a program? Or would you prefer to develop a program you can do for little cost, using objects or props in your home or office?
10. Check out the facility you want to join
Does the facility feel friendly? Can you change clothes comfortably? If the facility has a pool, what is its water temperature? About 84-86°F is comfortable for moderate to vigorous activity, while warmer temperatures are nice for range-of-motion and relaxation programs. Does the pool or workout room have an easy and safe exit/entry? Ask to try various programs, so you can decide which program feels the most comfortable and fun.
11. Check out the staff
Are the people who work in the facility friendly and interested in you? Are they qualified to work with older adults? Do they offer pre-exercise fitness assessments, with periodic updates? Are they interested in helping you learn how to modify exercises to fit your fitness level and conditions? Do they encourage social interaction? Talk to mature adults who currently participate in their programs to build a complete picture.
12. Make choices
To move forward, we need to leave some things behind. What are you willing to give up to make room for exercise? Bad habits? Nonproductive activities? Non-beneficial relationships?
13. Every step counts
Wear a step counter throughout the day to count how many steps you take. Less active people tend to take about 4,000 steps or fewer per day. Aim to do 250 to 1,000 additional steps of brisk walking, until you reach 8,000 to 10,000 steps in a day.
14. Keep moving all the time
Stretch, walk, march in place, stand and sit as many times as possible when you are talking on the phone or during TV commercials.
15. Do your own house and yard work
One of the best ways to stay in shape is to work around the home.
Posted by: Frank Esposito, VP Expert Home Care. New Jersey’s Expert Home Care provides professional, dependable home health care and companion care for NJ elderly, helping them with their daily living activities since 1984. Please call us toll free at 800-848-2336 when you have home care related questions or need assistance for a loved one. Get a Free Home Care Assessment (a $375 value!) when you mention this post.