You are never too old to exercise, as the benefits of exercising far outweigh the risks, even in your 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s. However, studies demonstrate that inactivity increases with age; by age 75, only one in three men and one in two women engage in physical activity. A consistent exercise program will boost energy, assist with managing symptoms of illness and pain, increase the ability to maintain independence and improve quality of life.
The 3 Components of Exercise
Cardiovascular: Moderate aerobic activity for a combined total of at least 30 minutes, most days of the week. Individual bouts of activity may be as brief as 10 minutes. Examples: walking, jogging, swimming, dancing, cycling, tennis, golf using a pull cart, etc.
Strength Training: Muscle strength is important to daily functions. As we age, muscle strength declines by 15% per decade after the age of 50 and 30% per decade after age 70. This type of training involves all major muscle groups. Examples: single set of 10 to 15 repetitions using 8 to 10 different exercises, performed 2 to 3 times per week. Each repetition should be performed slowly through a full range of motion while avoiding holding one’s breath.
Balance and Flexibility: Stretch major muscle groups once per day after exercise when muscles are more compliant. Yoga and Tai Chi promote balance and flexibility.
Overcoming Barriers to Exercise:
Prior to initiating an exercise program, please consult with your physician for recommendations and approval. For the most successful and consistent completion of an exercise program, it is helpful to identify and overcome barriers to activity. It begins with starting a habit, as many of us as we progress through life have established a habit of immobility. Below are some of the barriers that you may feel are preventing you from initiating an exercise program:
- Discomfort: Make your goals achievable and start slowly. Start with 10 minutes 3-4 times per week and gradually/incrementally increase time and frequency. Physical activity does not need to be strenuous to achieve health benefits.
- Disability: Exercises can be modified to meet every individual’s specific needs. Consider making an appointment with a physical therapist to assist with modifying exercises that you can complete safely with good body mechanics.
- Fear of Injury: Balance and strength training initially; use of appropriate clothing, equipment, and supervision; start slowly. Follow a recommended program that will decrease the potential of injury.
- Environment Factors: Walk in the mall; use senior centers.
- Illness: refrain from exercise until you regain strength.
- Fatigue: use a range of exercises that match your energy level. Incorporate your exercises into a prior routine, thus facilitating establishing a habit.
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