Seniors and exercise: Tips to avoid injuries, get healthy
Wednesday, January 11, 2017 8:44 AM
Exercise is an important component of a healthy lifestyle. Daily exercise can improve mood, promote an active lifestyle and reduce a person’s risk for a host of ailments, including diabetes and heart disease.
Despite the importance of exercise, many people live sedentary lifestyles into their golden years. Seniors who want to embrace a healthier way of life and get more physically active should first consult with their physicians before beginning an exercise regimen. Certain medications may limit just how far seniors can push themselves, while preexisting conditions may make specific types of exercise off limits. After discussing their limitations with their physicians and developing a safe exercise routine, seniors can heed the following tips to avoid injury but still get healthy.
• Pick a partner. Whether it’s a spouse or a friend who is physically active or wants to be, try exercising with a partner, at least initially. Doing so can provide the motivation you need and partners can serve as safety nets should you need assistance completing an exercise or suffer an injury and require medical attention. Personal trainers can serve as your partner, and many gyms offer discounts to seniors on personal training services.
• Start slowly. Seniors who have not been physically active for some time should take a gradual approach to exercise. Instead of heading right for the treadmill, exercise bike or elliptical machine, start walking every day. When it rains, find a treadmill you can walk on. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons recommends seniors begin by determining how many steps they can take in a day and then gradually working toward 10,000 to 15,000 steps per day. Utilize step counting apps on your smartphone to track your progress. Apply the same slow approach to strength training exercises, lifting only very light weights at first before gradually increasing weight as your body acclimates to the exercises.
• Stretch. Bodies that have been inactive for lengthy periods of time are inflexible, and lack of flexibility increases your risk for injury. The AAOS recommends that seniors warm up their bodies before stretching with five to 10 minutes of low-intensity activity such as walking. Then stretch gently, remembering to relax and breathe during each stretch.
• Switch things up. When strength training, do not work the same muscle group two days in a row. Muscles need time to recover. If you prefer circuit strength training where you exercise various muscle groups in one day, do not strength train on back-to-back days, leaving at least one day in between strength training sessions so muscles have ample time to recover.