It’s never too late to start exercising, so if you think you’re too old, think again! There’s no reason why most over-65s shouldn’t exercise, even when they have a chronic condition – in fact, getting active will often improve it. We’ve compiled a list of 15 fitness tips for senior exercise to help you get started, and keep you going!
- Remember why you’re doing it
Regular exercise will make you look and feel younger and extend your independence. It’ll also delay or lower your risk of a range of conditions, from memory loss, depression and dementia to arthritis, diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis and back pain.
- Start slowly
Don’t devise a complicated fitness plan that will leave you feeling exhausted and demotivated after day one. It’s far better to build up gradually and treat your body with respect as you go. To build your confidence, start with exercises that you’re already familiar with, if you can.
- Get active daily
Moving your body every day is the best way to get the benefits of being more active. Aim for ‘little and often’ rather than going all-out once a week.
- Build your balance
Working on your balance will improve your posture, make walking easier and lower the risk – and fear – of falls. Try tai chi, yoga or other posture exercises to feel more steady.
- Stretch for success
Not all exercise needs to involve getting out of breath! Stretching is a great way to improve your flexibility and range of movement, which can be a massive help when you’re getting on with everyday activities. You can find some simple stretching exercises here.
- Get strong
Did you know that you can build muscle at any age? You can use hand weights or a resistance band for strength training at home, or do exercises that use your body weight. There are lots of ideas for senior strength training and more here.
- Work on endurance
Increasing your heart rate and breathing will improve the condition of your heart, lungs and circulatory system. Dancing, swimming and cycling are all good options, but anything from raking or mowing in the garden to going up a flight of stairs will have the desired effect.
- Be gentle
Avoid locking your joints as you exercise, and steer clear of exercises that involve bouncing and jerking your body. These are the movements that are most likely to lead to injury. If you have limited mobility, why not try chair-based exercises?
- Listen to your body
As you start a new fitness routine, it’s normal to feel it a little – you might have the odd minor twinge as your body adjusts to doing more. But don’t ignore any sharp stabbing pain or joint pain.
- Get more sleep
It sounds obvious, but sleep is important to your wellbeing, whatever your stage of life. The better rested you are, the more you’ll feel inclined to be active during the day. Establish a calming bedtime ritual and make sure that you avoid the things that could make it hard to sleep, like a large meal, too many liquids or stimulants like caffeine or alcohol before bedtime
- Focus on short-term goals
Staying motivated will make a real difference to how easy you find it to stick to a new exercise routine, so try and come up with some goals that you can reach relatively quickly and easily. Targets that are six months off may feel unattainable. Focus on the immediate benefits, such as feeling less stressed and more energised, rather than hitting a particular figure for weight loss or distance.
- Pick activities you enjoy
While it’s important to work on strength, flexibility, endurance and balance, how you feel about exercising will make all the difference. There are lots of different types of activity that you can try. The ones you enjoy the most will be the ones that stick!
- Rest up when you’re poorly
Don’t work against yourself by trying to exercise when you’re feeling poorly with a cold or recovering from a virus. And ease yourself back in gradually if you’ve had to stop exercising for more than two weeks.
- Look after yourself
Before you start a new fitness regime, it’s always a good idea to get medical advice. And if you feel unwell when you exercise, watch out for signs to watch out for as a red flag: chest pain or pressure; breathing problems or abnormal shortness of breath, dizziness or faintness, sudden balance problems or nausea. If you have any concerns about these, talk to your doctor.
- Wear the right gear
There’s nothing worse than starting an activity and then realising that your shoes are uncomfortable or making you unstable, or your clothes are cutting in. Feeling comfy in what you’re wearing removes an unnecessary distraction that can spoil the enjoyment of getting active. Go for loose, soft clothing and shoes that are right for the activity, whether you’re dancing, walking or playing golf.
Have you started a new senior fitness routine? Send us a picture or let us know what’s helped you most!
Medical information. This is provided for informational purposes only and is not meant to be a substitute for advice by a doctor or other qualified healthcare professional. Patients should not use the information on the Active Patients website for diagnosing a health or fitness problem or disease. Patients should always consult with a doctor or other health professional for medical advice or information about diagnosis and treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice because of something you have read on Active Patients.