After age 55, our bodies lose flexibility, stamina, and strength. This was once thought of as an inevitable result of aging, but studies have shown that these effects of aging can be reversed through fitness and exercise. Exercise helps fight the age-related loss of muscle mass. It keeps your heart healthy, reduces blood pressure, helps you maintain a healthy weight, and improves bone density. It’s good for mental health, too. Regular exercise can keep your mind sharp and ward off depression – and maybe even dementia.
Experts recommend 2.5 hours a week of moderate activity, like brisk walking, supplemented with muscle-strengthening exercises at least two days a week. This may seem daunting, but even minimal exercise is good for you. Start small, with achievable goals, and work up to the recommended activity level. Take your time. Working up to a higher level of fitness can take months of gradual improvement. Aim for being as physically active as your health allows, and remember that everyone has limits. Geriatrician Dr. Katayoun Khalighi recommends, “Find out what your limits are, and see what kinds of gains you can make.”
It’s never too late to start exercising or get back into the habit. One out of five Americans over 65 is eligible for the Silver Sneakers fitness benefit. This program provides a gym membership at no cost, giving you access to fitness experts ready to help you reach your exercise goals. And if you’re returning to exercise after a break (even a long one), the Daily Mail reported that research has shown that your body “remembers” this, and it’s easier to pick the exercise habit back up. Here are some tips to help you ease back into exercise.
Make a Commitment
The first step to getting back into exercising is mentally committing to doing it. Make a pledge to yourself to stick with it, even if it’s just a month-long promise at first.
Consult the Professionals
If you have medical issues that may affect your physical fitness, ask your doctor first. They can help you develop an exercise plan, or even recommend a physical therapist who can show you exercises to do.
If you need to, you can start with as little as 5 minutes of slow walking several times a day, 5 times a week. Increase this gradually to 10 minute walks and start to increase your speed as you can.
Make a Deal with a Friend
Find an exercise partner to work out with. It’ll be harder for both of you to find excuses not to exercise, and the social aspect makes working out more fun.
Focus on the Outcome, Not the Process
Even though a workout can be hard in the moment, remember that afterwards you’re going to feel great, physically and mentally.
Think Outside the Gym
Exercise happens everywhere, not just in a gym. Take an extra lap around the mall if you’re out shopping. Do stretches at home. Mixing it up instead of having to go to the gym everyday keeps things interesting.
Too chilly to go outdoors? Check out these 5 ways to move your exercise regime inside!
Schedule It In
Make time for exercise and make it a priority. Find a time in the day that works for you and stick to it.
Start with Something Gentle
When you’re easing back into exercise, take it slow at first. Start with flexibility and stretching exercises.
Add Gentle Cardio
Then add some low impact cardio like walking, swimming, or water aerobics. Work up to walking at the fastest pace that allows you to still have a conversation.
Include Some Strength Training
Once you’re back in the habit of exercising, add light strength training or resistance exercise. Look into exercises that use light hand-held weights or resistance bands.