How to get off the couch, get fit in your senior years

Posted Sept. 04, 2014, at 3:54 p.m.

Exercise, it seems, is the equivalent to sipping from the fountain of youth. While you may thirst for the vitality of past years, there are things you should think about if you are a senior and just beginning an exercise plan.

First off, if you haven’t been active for a while, start very slowly. You’ll still benefit but won’t over strain your body. Talk to your health care provider before beginning an exercise program, especially if you’ve had cardiac issues or joint replacement.

A short walk, while wearing good supportive shoes, would be a great start. Or ride a stationary bike which is a heart-healthy but nonimpact activity.

Exercising with weights is an extremely good way to gain muscle mass and strength, which has the unfortunate tendency to decline as we age. But before you head to a store to buy dumbbells, get some professional help. Schedule time with a personal trainer from a reputable gym or a physical therapist who can put you through the paces. Again, talk to your health care provider about your fitness goals.

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The National Institute on Aging has some advice on preventing injuries for older, sedentary adults who are stepping — or pedaling — into the land of physical fitness.

Wear comfortable and loose-fitting clothes and supportive shoes. Be sure pant legs are short enough so you don’t trip on them while walking briskly, and if the shoes are new, wear them around the house to get used to them before hitting the streets.

Prepare your body for a workout by warming up gently with low-intensity stretches. And stay hydrated by drinking water before, during and after exercise.

If walking or biking outside, pay close attention to traffic, the weather, and be extremely mindful of uneven surfaces. Taking a cane can help you with balance in these situations.

Stop exercising immediately and call your doctor if you have pain or pressure in your chest, neck, shoulder or arm; feel dizzy or nauseated; break out in a cold sweat; or have muscle cramps or severe pain in joints, feet, ankles or legs. These symptoms are not normal and should be addressed. And take a cellphone with you, just in case.

While regular exercise isn’t akin to a time machine, it can help to keep the sand in your personal hourglass from draining too quickly.

Carol Higgins Taylor is an advocate for seniors and owns a public relations firm in Bangor. Email her at 4chtaylor@gmail.com.

 

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