Starting a regular exercise routine can be a challenge at any age, and it doesn’t get any easier as you get older. You may feel discouraged by health problems, aches and pains, or concerns about injuries or falls. If you’ve never exercised before, you may not know where to begin -- or perhaps you think you’re too old or frail and can never live up to the standards you set when you were younger. Or maybe you just think exercise is boring.
While these may seem like good excuses to slow down and take it easy as you age, they’re even better reasons to get moving. Becoming more active can energize your mood, relieve stress, help you manage symptoms of illness and pain, and improve your overall sense of well-being.
No matter your age or physical condition, it’s never too late to get your body moving, boost your outlook, and improve how you age. Here are a few suggestions:
Get medical clearance from your doctor before starting an exercise program. Ask if there are any activities you should avoid.
Listen to your body. Exercise should never hurt or make you feel ill. Stop exercising immediately and call your doctor if you feel dizzy or short of breath, develop chest pain or pressure, break out in a cold sweat, experience pain or if a joint is red, swollen or tender.
Start slow and build up steadily. If you haven’t been active in a while, build up your exercise program little by little. Try spacing workouts in ten-minute increments twice a day. Or try just one class each week. If you’re concerned about falling or have an ongoing heart problem, start with easy chair exercises to slowly increase your fitness and confidence.
Prevent injury and discomfort by warming up and cooling down and keeping water handy.
Commit to an exercise schedule for at least three or four weeks so that it becomes habit. After that it’s much easier if you find activities you enjoy.
Focus on short-term goals such as improving your mood and energy levels and reducing stress, rather than goals such as weight loss which may take longer to achieve.
Reward yourself when you successfully complete a workout or reach a new fitness goal.
Choose something you look forward to but don’t allow yourself to do until after exercising, such as having a favorite cup of coffee or a cool treat.
Keep a log. Writing down your activities in an exercise journal not only holds you accountable but is also a reminder of your accomplishments.
Get support. When you work out with a friend or family member, you can encourage and motivate each other.
Myles Dias, Master Trainer, Certified Senior Fitness Specialist