Fitness for Seniors: It’s Never Too Late to Begin a Regular Exercise Program

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By : dLife Editors

By: Chris Sparling

A moderate-intensity workout, performed three-to-five times per week, is more than enough for seniors and older adults to begin experiencing the health benefits of regular exercise. Seniors with diabetes can stay fit with these helpful exercise tips.

A moderate-intensity workout, performed three-to-five times per week, is more than enough for seniors and older adults to begin experiencing the health benefits of regular exercise.

The National Institutes of Health recommends that seniors and older adults follow a fitness program that involves both cardiovascular training and strength training.

There is an enormous amount of research to support the effects of each of these components on blood glucose levels, weight management, osteoporosis, and blood pressure.

To that end, the following workout will split your week into sessions designed to target muscle-building and toning, and sessions geared toward improving circulation and cardiovascular health.

It’s never too late to begin a regular exercise program.

The only person who can tell you differently is your doctor. As a senior citizen, you may be dealing with some common ailments, such as joint pain and arthritis.

Provided that your doctor gives you the O.K., start with an easy fitness program – such as joining a fitness class at your local senior center, walking around your neighborhood, or the workout suggested here, – and build from there.

Even if you are dealing with a condition that limits your mobility, you can still get fit. There are classes that offer special exercises for people using wheelchairs, classes that take place entirely in a pool, and even different fitness trainers who specialize in coaching people with disabilities.

Before You Get Started:

With regard to strength training and before starting a workout, the following tips are important to keep in mind:

  • Avoid locking the joints of your arms and legs when you reach the top of a particular movement. Try instead to stop just inches before reaching this locked-out point.
  • Inhale as you lower the weight and exhale as you raise it. Do not hold your breath, as it can affect your blood pressure and cause you to feel lightheaded.
  • Do not swing, jerk, or twist your body to bring weights into position. If such motions are necessary, you are likely using too much weight.
  • Though muscle soreness that lasts a few days after a weight workout is normal, exhaustion, muscle pulls, and sore joints are not.
  • Use weights that you can comfortably lift for at least eight repetitions, but no more than fifteen. If you do not have access to hand weights, unopened soup cans can be used in their place. If, however, you are not able to lift the cans, start first with only the movement of your body, adding the cans over time as your muscles become stronger.

And as Far as Cardio Conditioning Goes:

  • If you’re new to cardiovascular exercise, or if you’ve been inactive for a long time, start off by going easy on yourself, increasing tempo, distance, and time as you gradually build your stamina over the passing weeks and months.
  • Slight shortness of breath is normal during cardio training, but laboring to catch your breath is not. You should be able to able to carry on a conversation while your exercise.
  • Be sure to wear proper footwear to avoid blisters or injury if you are walking, jogging, or hiking.
  • If exercising outdoors, always have access to emergency medical service via a cell phone or other means of communication.
  • Regularly check your blood sugar during exercise to help avoid unexpected hypoglycemic episodes.
  • Drink water before, during, and after your cardiovascular workout to reduce the risk of dehydration.

The Workout:

Now for the actual workout. This program will be based on a two-day workout performed a total of four times per week, affording you three days off to rest.

Day One (Monday & Thursday): Cardio Workout:

Perform any one of the following exercises for a span of time that is comfortable for you. This will vary from person to person, depending upon your current fitness level.

If you are a beginner, start with 5 minutes per session and boost this amount of time as your endurance level increases.

  • Walking on a level surface
  • Swimming
  • Biking
  • Household chores (raking, mowing the lawn, gardening, mopping)
  • Jogging
  • Rowing
  • Dancing
  • Tennis

Day Two (Tuesday & Friday): Strength Training Workout:

Try to perform all of the prescribed exercises in the order in which they appear. If prior injury or physical limitation prevents you from doing so, only perform those exercises that can be done safely. Be sure to talk to your doctor if you have any questions.

Upper Body Workout
Lateral Raises 2 sets x 8-15 reps – 1-minute rest in between sets
Bicep Curls 2 sets x 8-15 reps – 1-minute rest in between sets

Lower Body Workout
Chair Stands 2 sets x 8-15 reps – 1 1/2 minute in between sets
Half-Squats 2 sets x 8-15 reps – 1 ½ minute in between sets

Remember, nowhere is it written that getting up in years means that you have to let your health and fitness go down for the count. Here’s to many more years of your good health.

Reviewed by Francine Kaufman, MD.

Updated by dLife Editors 1/19.