Table of Contents
- 5 Non-Negotiable Rules of Strength Training for Women Over 50
- Muscle Loss
- Muscle Helps Metabolism
- It’s Reversible!
- Use the Right Amount of Resistance
- Work Every Muscle, Not Just Your Favorites
- Use a Full Range of Motion
- Use Your Core in Every Exercise
- Big to Small Rule
- 8 Strength Training Moves Women Over 50 Should Do
- Benefits of Strength Training After 50
- Strength Training Tips Before You Get Started
- What Is The Best Workout For People Over 60?
- The Question
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- What comes with BodyFit Plus?
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- Healthy Workout (Over 60)
- 5-Minute Cardio Warm-Up
- 1. Get the go-ahead
- 2. Monitor your progress from the start
- 3. Now you’re ready, but start slow
- 4. Choose the best exercises for you
- 5. Self-assess to see if you are working out effectively
- 6. Don’t forget about hydration and good fuel
- Enjoy the SilverSneakers store!
- 3. Pilates
- 4. Bodyweight Training
- 5. Resistance Band Workouts
- 6. Walking
- 7. Cycling
- 8. Strength and Aerobic Classes
- 9. Personal Training
- Check Your SilverSneakers Eligibility Instantly
- Next Avenue Editors Also Recommend:
- Staying Fit as You Age
- Senior Exercise and Fitness Tips
- No matter your age, it’s never too late to get fit. These easy tips will help you get started safely and make it fun.
- Overcoming obstacles to getting active as you age
- What if you hate to exercise?
- Building a balanced exercise plan
- Getting started safely
- Tips for staying motivated
- 6 Summer Workouts for Older Women that You May Actually Enjoy
- These Summer Workouts for Older Women Will Get Your Heart Pumping
- Get on Your Bike!
- Hit the Water to Pump Your Muscles
- Get Back to Nature and Get in Shape with Hiking
- Relax Your Body and Mind with Tai Chi or Outdoor Yoga
- Hit the Tennis Court
- Use the Mall as Your Personal Gym
5 Non-Negotiable Rules of Strength Training for Women Over 50
Here’s the thing about fitness information: It changes constantly. New research, trends and fads steer us in directions we believe will be The Answer to whatever fitness problem ails us.
Belly fat? Use the Belly Blaster 2000!
Jiggly thighs? Do leg lifts for four hours a day!
Underarm wiggle? Try Wiggle Away!
One day we’re squeezing the life out of our ThighMaster, the next day we’re kickin’ it to Tae Bo. Now we wear tech that inspires us to walk around the bed 100 times before going to sleep just to rack up those 10,000 steps.
It’s easier to buy bigger clothes and forget the whole thing versus trying to decipher all the claims we stumble upon daily. How do you know what and who to believe? Where to turn?
It would be nice to have one neat little answer presented to us in a pretty box with a nice bow on top (one of those fancy, drapery-type cloth ones, not the cheap drugstore versions).
So let’s wade through the noise, shall we?
Here are a few solid, research-proven facts from the book Strength Training Past 50 by Wayne Westcott and Thomas R. Baechle:
We naturally lose 5 to 10 lbs. of muscle per decade after 50. 80% of women and men over 50 have too little muscle and too much fat. (Yikes!)
Muscle Helps Metabolism
Muscle keeps our metabolism stoked because it burns many more calories at rest. Without strength training you can expect a 3% drop in metabolism per decade, which adds up to an average of 15 lb. weight gain per decade or more. Sound familiar?
Here’s the good news: You can reverse this loss of muscle with even a small amount of strength training. If you are currently weight training, pat yourself on the back (not too hard though, or you risk tearing a rotator cuff).
If not, fear not! You can start today on the road to a better metabolism, stronger muscles and overall better life. For reals.
With this in mind, here are my top rules to get started and achieve the best results from any strength training program, based on the mistakes I see most often.
Use the Right Amount of Resistance
If you’re striving for muscle ‘tone,’ you need to build muscle. Don’t worry though, you’re not going to look like a WWE wrestler. No wrestler ever got massive biceps from curling 5-lb. dumbbells, I assure you.
Here’s the thing: You can’t tone fat, which leaves you with… muscle!
So, you need to work the muscle to a point where it has a reason to change. You do this by challenging it beyond it’s normal everyday exertion.
For example, as you read these words, pick up a pen, pencil, whatever you have around you, and start doing biceps curls with it. Keep going for the next five minutes.
Sounds ridiculous, right?
That’s essentially the same thing you’re doing when you use too light weight. You can go on forever and will never see results. You’ll eventually tire out from muscle fatigue – it may even ‘burn’ from lactic acid buildup, but that muscle will not be stimulated enough to wake up and shape up.
The bottom line is, you have to pick a weight that enables you to do 12 to 15 repetitions, where the last three of them are tough. If you can jump right into another set, it’s not heavy enough.
Note: When you first start doing resistance training you’ll notice your strength increases quickly in the beginning, but that will eventually level off.
Work Every Muscle, Not Just Your Favorites
As much as we’d all love to have flat abs, doing crunches without watching your diet and without exercising every other muscle won’t do it. You need a total body workout, not just abs and triceps, for example.
Be sure to include exercises for legs, glutes, core, chest, back, biceps, triceps and shoulders. Ignoring any muscle group sets you up for imbalances and possible injury.
Use a Full Range of Motion
Learn the proper way to do an exercise and be sure to use a full range of motion. That ensures you’re working the length of the entire muscle. It’s different if you need to modify a move due to an injury, arthritis or a doctor’s recommendation, of course.
I have over 70 videos on YouTube you can check out.
Use Your Core in Every Exercise
All movements start from the core. Your core includes everything that connects your upper body to your lower body. Needless to say, it’s pretty important. Whether you’re doing an arm exercise, leg or shoulder move, first engage your core.
This does not mean ‘sucking in’ your stomach. Instead, imagine someone about bracing your ab muscles as if you’re about to try and bounce a coin off of them.
Another way to focus on the core is by trying to draw your bellybutton in towards your spine, but without holding your breath in the process.
Keeping these muscles engaged not only works your core throughout your workout, but it also protects your spine. It’s really a win-win.
Big to Small Rule
Start with big muscle groups and work your way down to smaller ones. This isn’t a hard and fast rule if you’re just starting out, but it gets more important as you get stronger.
Smaller muscles support the bigger ones. For instance, if you tire out your triceps, you may need to lower the resistance when doing your chest exercises since your triceps stabilize and support the main chest muscles.
Ditto for biceps and back muscles; they work together.
Aim for two to three workouts a week, on non-consecutive days, one set of each exercise to start and work up to two to three sets when time allows.
I also offer a free Ageless Body Challenge on my website. You’re welcome to sign up!
Do you do strength training? What do you use – tubing, dumbbells, kettlebells, machines or your own body weight? Please share your routine below!
8 Strength Training Moves Women Over 50 Should Do
While aging is inevitable, aging well is not. There are many factors involved in maintaining good physical and mental health as you age.
For instance, eating clean, healthy food keeps your mind and body strong. Second, it has been shown that staying active and engaged in your every day life—whether it’s work, volunteering, or participating in a group activity of some kind—helps you find a purpose for each day and energy to keep going strong.
But one of the most important things to consider as you grow older is exercise. Exercise not only keeps you feeling and looking younger, but actually physically slows down the aging process.
And while exercise comes in many forms, strength training is where the true anti-aging magic happens. If you’re over 50 and haven’t been strength training, it’s not too late to start.
According to the MLTJ (Muscle, Ligament and Tendon Journal), the aging process is defined as “changes in muscle mass and strength with decline of muscle strength after the 30th year of life.”
That’s the definition of the aging process? Wow! In other words, a decrease in muscle is a huge part of what makes you age.
Did it surprise you to learn that we begin to lose muscle mass as young as age 30?
The good news is you can beat the odds! Strength training to build and maintain muscle is going to slow down the aging process and make you look and feel younger.
Let’s explore some benefits of strength training and then the specific strength training moves women over 50 should do.
- Benefits Of Strength Training After 50
- Tips Before You Get Started
- 8 Strength Training Moves Women Over 50 Should Do
Benefits of Strength Training After 50
In addition to slowing down the overall aging process, strength training after 50 offers several amazing benefits you won’t want to miss out on.
According to Tufts University, strength training will reduce the risks and symptoms of several health problems.
Strength Training Over 50 Reduces Your Risk Of:
- back pain
Amazing, right? And this is simply a list of things strength training can help avoid.
Beyond that, there is so much strength training actually does to keep our bodies healthy as we age. Let’s explore what those are!
1. Builds Muscle Mass
Building mass sounds like you are making yourself bigger or bulking up like a body builder. This is exactly the OPPOSITE of what strength training does.
Put it this way: a pound of fat and a pound of muscle weigh the same, but a pound of muscle takes up MUCH LESS space than a pound of fat!
Those who lift weights and strength train end up with bodies that are more tight and compact and wear smaller clothes. Of course, appearance is likely the least most important part of this benefit.
Being stronger means you are able to stay independent and strong for life’s daily activities such as carrying groceries, lifting grandchildren, pushing a lawn mower or engaging in fun things like golf or other sports.
2. Builds Bone Density
Unexpected falls put countless older people in the hospital every year. In fact, according to the CDC, falls are the leading cause of injury and death in older Americans.
If you break your arm playing high school football, you’re likely to return to the field in about 8 weeks. If you break a leg while downhill skiing in your 20’s, you’ll be sidelined for a time but most likely back to the slopes sooner than you think.
It doesn’t work that way for an older person. The ramifications of broken bones can be devastating.
Strength training helps.
First and foremost many studies have shown that strength training increases bone mineral density itself. But beyond that, by strengthening the muscle and connective tissue that surrounds your bones, you are making yourself stronger overall and helping to prevent the fall from happening in the first place.
Plus, if you should fall for other reasons, your strong muscles and connective tissue will protect your bones and make a break less likely to happen.
3. Decreases Body Fat
Too much body fat isn’t good for you at any age. Not only is it harder to move when you carry that extra weight around, but maintaining a healthy weight is important when it comes to preventing many of the diseases listed above that come with aging.
In addition, body fat is both external and internal. The external is the stuff we see. The internal is the dangerous fat.
It surrounds your organs, pumps out unwanted hormones, and increases inflammation in your body. None of this means you should aim for “skinny”.
A healthy amount of body fat is both good and necessary. Too much, however, is not.
Healthy is the goal.
3. Help Avoid Injuries
Injuries seem to come with more frequency as we age. Weight training strengthens both muscles and connective tissues such as tendons and ligaments for fewer injuries and more living!
Related: 9 Tips To Prevent Joint Pain During Exercise
4. Speeds Up Your Metabolism
Most people will testify that their metabolism has slowed down with age. You just can’t eat the same things in the same volume as you ate during your 20’s or 30’s.
This circles back to the idea that you are likely less active and have also lost some of your muscle. The muscle you put on your body is an active tissue, burning calories all day while fat is just dead weight.
So the math is easy: more muscle = higher metabolism.
In addition, lifting weights is hard work. Cardio exercise doesn’t own the calorie burning industry!
Strength training is a great way to burn calories and fire up your metabolic rate for the day.
5. Improves Mental Health
As you get older, you may go through a lot of changes—death of loved ones, retirement, children moving away, stressful life events, or medical problems.
It’s normal to feel uneasy, stressed, or sad about these changes. Lack of self-confidence tends to tag along with as you adjust to the “new normal” in your life. Strength training has been shown to improve your confidence and boost your mood.
In addition, clinical depression is not just for younger people. Depression in older adults is on the rise.
Harvard Medical School reports that exercise helps lessen the incidence and the degree of clinical depression.
Strength Training Tips Before You Get Started
For just 20-30 minutes a day, just a few days a week, you can change the way your body ages and the way you feel in that body. So are you ready to give it a try?
Before you get started you should know that weight training is perfectly safe for those over 50, but make sure you do a few simple things first:
- Check with your doctor before dramatically increasing your exercise regimen or if you have any pre-existing injuries or conditions.
- Make sure your medications are aligned with your exercise program.
- Drink lots of water. If it’s hot, drink more!
- The“No Pain, No Gain” does not apply. If it hurts, stop doing what you’re doing. (Not if it’s hard-if it’s painful!)
- Take plenty of time to warm up. The older you are the more warming up you need.
- Work with a trainer if you have the means. Even just a few sessions can be helpful so that you learn proper form and technique.
To get you started, here are 8 awesome exercises that women over 50 can incorporate into their regular exercise routines.
If you don’t have a routine that you use, these moves will do the trick!
Why these moves in particular?
Not because they are the ONLY moves you can do that will work, but for the following reasons:
1. They cover everything from lower body to upper body to core strength and balance training—all things you definitely want to keep working on as you age!
2. They get the job done quicker. Multi-tasking moves like the Cross Behind Lunge with Lateral Raise tackles shoulders, core, legs and glutes and your heart rate will go up!
3. They are low impact. For instance, the single leg hamstring bridge tackles your rear end and hamstrings without putting pressure on knee or hip joints.
4. Push-ups are a must! You aren’t the only one who doesn’t like them but that doesn’t mean shouldn’t do them. They are EFFECTIVE and they work! These push-ups allow you to be on your knees. If you ever want to lift the knees you are more than welcome!
5. Everyone should do planks. The forearm plank shown below will give you all the benefits of a plank but keep you off your wrists which tend to be sensitive for most older women.
So are you ready? Get yourself a light pair of dumbbells, perhaps 5-8 pounds, and give this routine a try.
Perform 8-12 repetitions of each of the following moves with 30-60 seconds rest in between. If you feel yourself getting stronger, reach for heavier weights.
If you are looking for more strength training ideas with a little guidance and whole lot of fun, try GHU TV’s Definitions program!
Squat Bicep with Knee Lift
Learn how to perform a squat bicep with knee lift.
Learn how to perform a forearm plank.
Single Leg Hamstring Bridge
Learn how to perform a single leg hamstring bridge.
Kneeling Push Ups
Learn how to perform kneeling push-ups.
Reverse Grip Double Arm Row
Learn how to perform reverse grip double arm row.
Cross Behind Lunge with Lateral Raise
Learn how to perform cross-behind lateral lunge.
Learn how to perform tricep kickback.
Learn how to perform bird dog.
What Is The Best Workout For People Over 60?
There are many men and women over the age of 60 either trying to build up their physique or simply trying to be more active and healthy. In addition to maintaining or creating a great physique recovery and proper technique are now even more important.
What is the best workout for people over 60? Be specific.
How does a workout routine differ from someone who is over 60 compared to someone younger?
What are some good supplements for people over 60?
Show off your knowledge to the world!
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There are many men and women over the age of 60 either trying to build up their physique or simply trying to be more active and healthy. In addition to maintaining or creating a great physique recovery and proper technique are now even more important.
Exercise is important at any age, and staying active as one gets older is a great way to promote a healthier, longer life and prevent injuries. More and more older adults are engaging in a broad range of activities, from athletics to aerobics, proving that you don’t have to be young to play hard and have fun.
What Is The Best Workout For People Over 60?
Obviously, older adults are going to engage in workouts that differ from those of younger adults and teenagers. While no one wants to be told that they can’t do something, certain movements are inappropriate for older adults and age should be a consideration.
Before beginning a workout plan, it is important to consult a medical professional with a knowledge of your personal medical history—this advice goes for exercise enthusiasts of any age. But because older adults are at risk for more medical conditions, such as osteoporosis and arthritis, this is a crucial first step.
After gaining clearance, one may not be sure where to start. Thankfully, the ACSM has provided some general guidelines for exercise programs designed specifically for older adults.
The core recommendation is that at least 30 minutes of “moderate physical activity” should be performed on most days of the week. And while it may seem like an odd priority, strength training should be a main focus, as it prevents bone and muscle loss. Additionally, flexibility and functional movements (those that mimic everyday activities) are important.
In this example plan, there will be four days of cardiovascular activity and two days of strength training. If any discomfort or pain is felt during the activity, stop immediately and consult a trainer or medical professional for guidance. In addition, be sure to have water nearby at all times.
Before beginning the session, it is imperative that one performs stretching as a warm-up. This reduces the risk of muscle strain and improves flexibility, a core concern of exercise programs for older adults. Remember not to “bounce” or stretch too far, as this will only aggravate the muscles. Some good stretches are: triceps stretch, seated floor twist, toe touch, standing biceps stretch, and the spinal stretch.
After stretching is complete, it’s time to get the party started! For cardiovascular activity, the actual type of exercise isn’t the most important thing, but rather the intensity level.
ACSM recommends working at a level that is “hard enough to raise your heart rate and break a sweat,” but still allows one “to carry on a conversation.” This ensures that the body is being stimulated but not so intensely that there is a risk of overexertion.
The options for activity are virtually limitless—do whatever you enjoy most. Because there are four cardiovascular days, variety can be incorporated—this is a nice way to keep things fresh and fun and prevent feeling burned out or bored. Some great activities for older adults are:
- Biking (indoors or outside)
- Aquatic Aerobics
- Step Aerobics
- Rowing Machine
All of these activities can be made more entertaining with the inclusion of family and friends, or if performed while reading a book or magazine or watching television. Before you know it, 30 minutes will have flown by.
Again, stretching is critical before beginning to exercise. Ensuring that joints and muscles are moving comfortably can avoid injury, and getting muscles warm before exercise leaves one less susceptible to strains. Weight training should be performed twice per week, in sessions lasting between 20 and 45 minutes. In addition, the same moderate level of intensity should be sought after.
Because hypertrophy and maximal force production are not likely to be goals for the 60 and up crowd, free weights and muscle specialization will not be necessary. Rather, one or two exercises should be performed for each of the following muscle groups: Legs, Back, Shoulders, Arms, Chest and Abdomen. For each exercise, two sets of 8-10 repetitions should be sufficient. In addition, the focus should be functional movements.
An example workout would look like this:
Day 1 1 2 sets, 8-10 reps+ 7 more exercises
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- Push-ups: 2 sets of 8-15 reps
- Lat Pull-down: 2 sets of 8-10 reps
- Dumbbell Lunges: 2 sets of 8-10 reps (for both legs)
- Hyperextensions: 2 sets of 8-10 reps
- Abdominal Crunch Machine: 2 sets of 8-10 reps
- Seated Cable Row: 2 sets of 8-10 reps
- Leg Press: 2 sets of 8-10 reps
- Incline Chest Press: 2 sets of 8-10 reps
In order to prevent overexertion, weight training should not be performed on consecutive days. As with cardiovascular exercise, incorporating friends and family is a great way to make the experience more enjoyable, which increases the likelihood of continuation.
How Does A Workout Routine Differ From Someone Who Is Over 60?
Obviously, age makes a difference in terms of physical activity, especially in such a potentially demanding setting as the weight room. One major difference is in the frequency of workouts.
While teens may be able to handle three days of lifting per week with seven days of cardio, this is not realistic for older adults and would likely result in injury.
Duration of the workouts is different as well, with older adults exercising for about 1/3 to 1/2 of the length of time a younger athlete might. Intensity, too is different, as more tender joints and less conditioned lungs and other muscles are potential issues for older adults to consider.
The exercises themselves have a few differences. While free weights are often favored by serious gym-goers and exercise enthusiasts, machines are preferable for older adults.
The use of machines aids in maintaining proper form because the movement is assisted. Also, machine movements do not rely on stabilizing muscles as much, which is important as older adults may be somewhat deconditioned and will not have sufficiently developed muscles for complex free weight exercises.
Lastly, exercise selection for seniors is specialized. Functional movements are key, as are exercises that focus on more than one muscle. Because only a few lifts are being performed, isolation exercises would be inefficient and therefore inappropriate.
What Are Some Good Supplements For People Over 60?
Despite the fact that younger athletes should theoretically be healthier, the majority of supplements are targeted toward them. However, older adults may find many supplements suited to their needs. Some possibilities are:
Multivitamins are recommended almost universally, and the over 60 crowd is no exception. Because older adults have lower calorie needs than younger athletes, they may find it difficult to derive adequate nutrition from their daily meals. A solid multivitamin will fill in the gaps and boost the immune system and overall health.
Adequate intake of fatty acids is important to maintaining one’s health, and a calorie-restricted diet may lack proper levels. Fats also cushion joints and organs, which are crucial considerations if one is living an active life. The consumption of healthy fats has also been linked to reductions in Alzheimer’s disease and other mental disorders.
Joint Care Supplement
Because properly functioning joints are imperative to movement, a joint care supplement is highly recommended. Older adults have had decades of wear and tear from gravity on their joints, so picking up glucosamine, a component of cartilage, would be a wise choice.
This is a potent hormone that produces estrogen and testosterone. DHEA use is often said to “reduce the effects of aging” by boosting the immune system, contributing to development of muscle mass and improving memory. Who couldn’t use a supplement like that?
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Healthy Workout (Over 60)
At the age of 60, the body is mostly incapable of building large quantities of new muscle. For the most part, pre-existing muscle tissue may get larger, but the overall quantity will probably not increase. Recovery is also much slower due to reduced absorption rates of nutrients.
The body is also beginning to enter a fragile state in which joint related injuries are common and take a long time to recover from and many times, complete recovery is not possible. Any injury past the age of 60 is probably going to be pretty serious.
The main goal of working out should be to build some strength and reduce the risk for disease (primarily heart disease). Therefore, a workout should simply be to get the blood flowing and to build some strength without causing any serious injury in the process.
The first step in creating a workout plan if you are over the age of 60 is to understand the condition of your body. A 60-year-old person who has been sedentary their whole life will obviously be in a different situation than a former marathon runner. It is also important to acknowledge any past injuries to the joints and to attempt to minimize the amount of stress being put on those joints.
Exercises to avoid:
- Bench Press*
- Free-Weight Squats
- Pulling or Pushing Movements Behind the Head*
- High Impact Cardio or Plyometrics
- High Risk For Shoulder Injuries
*High Risk For Shoulder Injuries.
The best overall workout would be a simple circuit-training routine that incorporates lifting movements that allow the weight to be easily controlled, which thus reduces the risk for injury.
The general format is to create a total body workout in which you move from one exercise to the next. High repetition exercises are also necessary to build strength while minimizing the risk for injury. Since this is a total body workout, try to focus on compound movements that involve many different body parts. Here’s what a workout should look like:
- 5 minute low-intensity, low-impact cardio warm up. Use an elliptical, recumbent bike, or walk on a treadmill.
After warming up, start off your workout with a series of compound upper body movements. After that, move to a lower body movement, and then finish up with some core exercises.
The final part of the workout is to move back to the cardio machines to keep the blood flowing and the calories burning. 10-15 minutes of post-workout cardio is good enough. This cardio should be low to moderate intensity.
Here’s the workout:
5-Minute Cardio Warm-Up
- Dumbbell Bench Press: (turn arms inward at the bottom of the movement) 10-20 reps
- Pull-Ups: 10-20 reps
- Triceps Extensions: 10-20 reps
- Dumbbell Biceps Curls: 10-20 reps
Note: Complete the cycle again only if you feel like you can handle it.
- Leg Press: 10-20 reps
- Calf Press: 10-20 reps
- Leg Extensions: 10-20 reps
- Leg Curls: 10-20 reps
Note: Complete cycle again only if you feel like you can handle it.
- Exercise Ball Crunches: To failure
- Leg Raises: To failure
Note: Complete cycle again only if you feel like you can handle it.
A workout should not last any longer than 45 minutes.
Only do one cycle the first time you workout to see where your conditioning. The average person will only be able to handle one cycle. If you absolutely run out of energy and you feel light-headed, then stop and let yourself recover. At that point, only continue if your body feels normal and regulated. Otherwise, call it a day and go home.
Try to workout 2 days a week and go walking on a few of the days in between workouts.
Glucosamine, MSM, chondroitin, and collagen are all good supplements that will promote joint health. Anyone over the age of 60 should consume as many of these nutrients as possible to protect their joints. Some dietary supplements contain all four.
Make sure you are careful with working out, and don’t push yourself if you experience pain in your joints or if you feel sick. At the age of 60, you want to get a good workout in while protecting your body at the same time.
Supplementing protein shakes is unnecessary and pointless. At this age, the body can’t digest and absorb protein easily, which will result in excess bodily waste and weight gain from supplementation.
We all know exercising regularly can keep you active as you age, with fewer health issues — but how do you actually do it?
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Some people manage to stay fairly fit by keeping up with a busy lifestyle, until they get older. Others have just never gotten around to exercising much, and it starts to show.
Either way, if you’re pushing 60 or you’ve already passed that milestone, it’s time to get serious about making exercise a staple in your daily routine.
If your treadmill has gathered some dust, don’t worry. Here are six practical tips to get you going.
1. Get the go-ahead
If you haven’t seen a doctor lately, that’s your first stop. He or she will give you a physical exam to assess your present fitness level and make sure you’re healthy enough to start picking up the pace.
This is the time to find out whether any medical problems will affect your exercise routine. You may need to adjust for conditions such as heart problems, arthritis or diabetes, but exercise can also help you manage these conditions, so don’t get discouraged.
The key is to have clearance that will help guide your first steps. Your doctor may also offer advice on where to start or on exercise groups in your area that are tackling the same challenges you are. Above all, your doctor can get you on track and help ensure that you are exercising safely.
“The benefits of exercise far outweigh the fear of getting started,” says physical therapist Gary Calabrese, Director of Sports Health and Orthopedic Rehabilitation at Cleveland Clinic. “It increases mobility, balance, reduces chronic conditions, helps you lose weight and increases lean muscle mass. It also improves sleep.”
2. Monitor your progress from the start
As you start exercising more, you may want to use a few simple tools to track your progress. Use a:
- Pedometer or activity tracker to register how many steps you take each day
- Stopwatch or timer to time your workouts and help you take your pulse before and after you exercise
- Notebook or journal to keep track of daily exercise and show how far you’ve come as you progress
It helps to track your progress from the beginning because you likely won’t see immediate results, Mr. Calabrese says.
RELATED: How Can You Tell If You’re Exercising Effectively for Heart Health?
3. Now you’re ready, but start slow
All workouts should begin with a warm-up and stretching.
Simple leg and arm swings or trunk rotations are good for getting your muscles firing and your circulation going.
If you’re going for a walk, walk slowly and steadily for a few minutes before picking up the pace. Relax, breathe and don’t be afraid to take it slowly at first. You’ll find that it comes more easily as you develop a routine.
RELATED: 5 Great Reasons You Should Take a Walk Today
4. Choose the best exercises for you
A balanced exercise routine should include:
- Strength exercise
- Balance and proprioperception (the ability to sense where your body is in space)
Here are some tips to create the right routine:
Alternate days. Switch back and forth between aerobic and strength exercises, working up to at least 30 minutes of exercise, five days each week.
Find activities you enjoy. In general, find something new that you enjoy or activities you enjoyed in the past, and get moving. You might try walking, bicycling, sports, dancing or pilates. And if you can find friends who will exercise with you, all the better. You’ll help motivate each other.
Consider swimming. Doing laps in a pool (walking or swimming) is a great cardio workout, especially helpful if you are overweight or have joint pain.
Go for a walk. Walk briskly between certain landmarks in your neighborhood. If the weather is bad, walk up and down stairs at home or do chair sit-and-stands. Start slow and increase in 5-minute increments, eventually working up to about 30 minutes a day, Mr. Calabrese says.
Strength train. Use free weights or resistance bands for strength training. Rotate through the muscle groups — back, arms, legs, stomach, hips — to build in recovery time. Use 5-pound dumbbells or kettlebells and slowly add weight as you’re able to do more repetitions.
Work on balance every day. Try something as simple as standing at your kitchen counter on one foot and then the other helps improve balance. Yoga and tai chi are also excellent choices for older adults who want to improve balance and flexibility, he says.
“The key to remember is that you have to fit you to the program and not the program to you,” he says. If you’re having difficulty in a pilates or yoga class with one of the positions, don’t force it and cause yourself pain. Just do as much as you comfortably can.
5. Self-assess to see if you are working out effectively
The “talking test” is a good test of how hard you’re working. If your heart rate is up, but you can still have a conversation with a person next to you without gasping for air, you’re likely doing it right, says Mr. Calabrese.
You’ll notice normal soreness in the first 24 hours after a weightlifting session, but if you are still feeling it after 36 to 48 hours you probably did too much, he says.
If you’re not working hard enough, you’ll know that too. “You won’t see any impact in your level of fatigue, your ability to lift and your ability to walk distances if you are doing too little exercise,” he says.
RELATED: 4 Best Tips for Using Fitness-tracking Devices
6. Don’t forget about hydration and good fuel
As you commit to exercising regularly, it’s also a good time to reassess your eating habits and remember to drink plenty of water every day.
Plan meals and snacks that are high in fiber and well-balanced with “good” calories to fuel your body. Whole grains like oatmeal, fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, beans, tofu and fish are all good examples.
Older people are likely eating less than they used to, so they should focus especially on hydration, Mr. Calabrese says.
1. Just do it
That’s the overwhelming message. If there’s one thing that can help you hold back the years for your brain and your body it’s staying active. Studies show that active older people resemble much younger people in their health and physiology.
2. Start squatting
Regular squats and lunges won’t just strengthen your leg muscles they could also help keep your brain young. By tracking a group of identical twins over 10 years, scientists have discovered that their leg strength was a better predictor of cognitive change than any other lifestyle factor.
3. Power up
Strength training becomes more important as you age. From your mid 30s muscle mass starts to decline and post menopause that accelerates, affecting your metabolism, strength, balance, bone health and even your diabetes risk.
MORE: THIS IS WHY OLDER WOMEN SHOULD BE WEIGHTLIFTING
4. Walk every day
Just 25 minutes could give you an extra seven years of life say German researchers. They put a group of 30-60-year-old non-exercisers on a daily walking programme and within six months blood markers showed changes in the body which help to repair DNA.
5. Stretch out
‘Do it throughout your lifetime and you won’t lose your flexibility,’ says physiotherapist Sammy Margo. Stay active and practice these stretches
* Lift your arms as high as you can up to the ceiling then push each arm up alternately, holding for 5 seconds. Repeat three times each side.
* Stand up and hold onto a chair with your left hand. Raise your right knee, hold your foot with your right hand and bring your heel to your bottom. Hold for 5 seconds, repeat three times on each leg.
6. Go flat out
Just a few minutes of HIIT – high intensity interval training – can build strength and fitness in one go improving insulin sensitivity, aerobic fitness and muscle strength after just a few weeks. Dr John Babraj from Abertay University, Dundee, took a group of unfit overweight older adults and got them to do 10, six-second bursts of intense running twice a week with 90 seconds recovery time between the sprints – just two minutes exercise a week. After six weeks they all had improved muscle function, blood pressure and glucose control. ‘It makes it possible for anyone to do it – you don’t have to be Usain Bolt, just put in the maximum effort for you,’ says Dr Babraj.
MORE: THIS IS HOW I MOTIVATE MYSELF TO EXERCISE 5 TIMES A WEEK
7. Run up the stairs
It burns calories, builds bone and strengthen your legs and core. Walk down to boost bone as your heel hits.
8. Stand on one leg
Balancing is a complex operation involving your muscles, eyes, inner ear and receptors in the nerves of your joints. ‘Good balance is vital but it declines as we get older so if you don’t use it you’ll lose it,’ says Sammy Margo. Tai Chi ticks all the boxes for balance, but if you don’t fancy it try heel rises – rise up onto your toes as far as you can then drop down and repeat 10-20 times – or sit to stand, without using your hands get up from a chair and sit down 10-20 times.
9. Know it’s never too late
Scientists at the University of Texas proved that when they put five unfit, overweight 50 year olds on a six-month regime of walking, jogging and cycling the training reversed 100% of their age-related decline in aerobic fitness and took the men back to their baseline fitness at age 20.
MORE: THIS IS WHY WOMEN SHOULD START BOXING
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And while yoga is low-impact and gentle on your body’s joints, it’s still weight-bearing, meaning that you have to support your body’s weight with every posture. That’s vital to strengthening not just your muscles, but also your bones.
If you are new to yoga, look for an introductory class that will teach you the basics. SilverSneakers Yoga is made for older adults and offers a chair so you can do poses seated or standing. Restorative, hatha, and Iyengar classes are also great options. Talk to your class instructor about any physical limitations before getting started.
Like yoga, Pilates is known for being a low-impact strength program, but its focus on core stability makes it especially great for older adults, Dr. Shin says. One 2014 analysis in the European Review of Aging and Physical Activity concluded that Pilates participation improves balance in older adults.
Most gyms offer Pilates classes designed for first-timers, which is especially important for those interested in classes that rely on the “reformer,” an exercise machine that uses springs, bars, and straps for resistance. You can also give it a try with this at-home Pilates workout for a stronger core.
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4. Bodyweight Training
One out of every three older adults experiences severe muscle loss, according to an analysis in Age and Ageing. Meanwhile, when it comes to fighting age-related abdominal fat—a marker for overall health—Harvard research shows that strength training is more time-efficient than cardiovascular exercise.
Fortunately, you don’t have to bench press a ton of weight to keep your muscles healthy and prevent fat gain over the years, Dr. Shin says. In fact, she notes, for most older adults, it’s far safer to start small. Simple bodyweight exercises such as chair squats, single-leg stands, wall pushups, and stair climbing will do a great job at keeping your body strong and ready to tackle everyday activities.
Here’s everything you need to know about strength training. Ready to try? Start with the chair squat.
5. Resistance Band Workouts
Your gym undoubtedly has an array of resistance bands ready for use, but these inexpensive and beginner-friendly exercise tools are perfect for at-home workouts as well, Dr. Shin says.
In addition, bands can help you challenge your muscles in ways you might not be able to with equipment-free training. For instance, when it comes to strengthening your back and improving your posture, rows and other pulling motions are vital—but hard to do if you don’t have any exercise equipment on hand.
Get started with our beginner’s guide to resistance bands.
Even if you can’t find the time to perform a structured workout, you likely have time to put one foot in front of the other to get where you need to go, Dr. Shin says. She recommends most people take 10,000 steps per day, even on days they don’t “work out.” Research in PLOS One found that people who increased their activity levels to 10,000 steps per day were 46 percent less likely to die in the following 10 years compared to those who stayed sedentary.
For some older adults or people with a chronic condition, 10,000 may not be the right exact number. But the fact remains: Walking is a great, free workout that can have a big impact on your health.
Check out the video below for easy ways to mix up your walking workout. Plus, find free walking audio guides on the SilverSneakers GO app.
Another low-impact form of exercise, cycling is ideal for those who want to increase their leg strength, but can’t run or engage in other high-impact sports due to osteoporosis or joint issues, Dr. Shin says. A 2017 analysis in the European Review of Aging and Physical Activity found that cycling also helps improve cardiovascular health, metabolic health, and cognitive performance in adults older than 70.
If you have cycling trails near your home, consider scheduling regular bike rides with family or friends. Indoor cycling is another great option for those without access to trails or when weather conditions aren’t ideal. Plus, with a stationary bike, you don’t have to worry about falls or needing to wear a helmet.
8. Strength and Aerobic Classes
If you attend SilverSneakers classes, you already know that group exercise isn’t just a fantastic way to break a sweat. You’ll also have tons of fun and make new friends along the way, both of which are hugely important when it comes to making exercise a habit. In fact, 2017 research in BMC Public Health notes that the social aspect of group exercise increases activity levels in older adults over the long term.
There is no end to the list of group exercises out there, from SilverSneakers Classic to Zumba to boot camp. If you’re nervous about jumping into a new group, ask a friend to sign up with you.
9. Personal Training
If you’re looking for more attention and instruction than group classes provide, working with a personal trainer is a great path to fitness and fun. Many offer one-on-one and small-group sessions, the latter in which you and one to three of your friends perform the same workout with the trainer. Make it easier on your wallet by using one-on-one sessions to help you get started with a program you can continue on your own or going the small-group route.
No matter which option you choose, the trainer will help you master proper form and build a solid base of exercise knowledge that you can carry with you for years to come. In addition, your workouts will likely blend different types of exercise.
When choosing a trainer, look for someone certified through a governing body like the American College of Sports Medicine, the American Council on Exercise, the National Academy of Sports Medicine, or the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Bonus points if they have a history of training older adults.
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SilverSneakers members can go to thousands of gyms and fitness locations across the nation, plus take exercise classes designed for seniors and led by supportive instructors. If you have a Medicare Plan, it may include SilverSneakers—at no additional cost. Check your eligibility instantly here.
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(This story was originally published on Next Tribe.)
Sometime in my early 50s, I went from being an only slightly out-of-shape 10K runner to being a person I barely recognized in the mirror. My body was big and round and soft in places it had never been, and anything that could sag did. Even sitting in a chair or lying on the couch, two activities I was doing more than ever before, reminded me that I was tired, in a deep and abiding way. And yet, each night as I put my head on the pillow, insomnia stole every possibility of getting the rest my aging body seemed to need. I couldn’t decide what depressed me more — the idea that I’d gained 20 pounds or the sense that this physical decline was out of my control.
Everyone my age seemed to be experiencing the same changes, and our older female friends just shook their heads and quietly muttered the word “menopause.” All I could see was a future of getting larger and lazier and less healthy. Even in the face of that grim image, part of my lethargy was an apathy that urged me off the sofa only for ice cream or a second helping of pasta.
The Awakening In My Body
But then, very gradually, the literal and figurative weight of “the change” began to loosen its grip on me.
I was 60 by that time, and a tingly feeling I barely recognized returned: motivation. Part of it came from things beginning to normalize in my body, and partly from my quitting drinking. Although I wasn’t putting lampshades on my head at parties, I’d let my wine drinking in the evenings go unchecked. Moderation seemed useless. It turned out that although I’d vowed to drink no more than two glasses of wine in one sitting, two was the exact number it took for me not to care how many I drank.
Following through on something I meant to do for a long time, I began my seventh decade by giving up drinking completely. Surprisingly, it was much easier than the crazy negotiating — “If I don’t drink during the week, I can drink whatever I want on the weekends” — I’d been doing for the last five years, and it added to an awakening in my body and my brain in a way I hadn’t experienced in years. When I added that feeling to the growing sense of my own mortality, which was following me like a feral dog, I got it that I had to get this machine running in a slightly higher gear.
The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
As part of a writing project I was working on, I actually looked into what happens to our bodies as we get older. Joe Baker, a professor and researcher in the School of Kinesiology at York University in Toronto, specializes in physical activity across the lifespan. He told me that his work with Masters athletes has shown him that, as we age, we disengage from physical activity because of the stereotypes associated with getting older. We simply feel like we can’t do it all anymore — mainly because we’re older. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy since this attitude, in turn, promotes a decline in our abilities and conditions. Baker’s work scared me and stimulated me at the same time. More than anything, it got me back to running regularly and to lifting weights three times a week at the gym.
Even jogging three miles was hard at first — my quads were killing me after lunges at the gym — and it was difficult to be patient with myself. I wanted to quit and just “enjoy my old age.” But, if Baker is right, it will be much less enjoyable if I become sedentary.
Little by little, I built up my strength and stamina and reduced the amount of sugar and fat I was eating, and within a matter of a few months I realized I was probably in the best shape of my life. This doesn’t mean it was easy, because it wasn’t. I hit a wall 20 minutes in on many, many morning runs. I’d try to keep going, but eventually I’d do my own version of the walk of shame, all the while muttering about letting myself get out of shape in the first place.
Healthier Than Ever
Once I started to rebuild my energy, my muscles and my interest, it got much easier and I definitely made progress. I’m 15 pounds lighter and I run more than 30 miles a week. The weight training has actually created definition in my muscles, and if I weren’t 65 with a 65-year-old’s aging skin, I’d say I look better than I ever have. I know I look healthier.
The important thing is that I don’t feel obsessed about this as I did when I was in my 30s and watching every morsel I ate. I still indulge in ice cream and tortilla chips, and I spend lots of time lying on the couch reading. But I get outside and move my body every day for most of an hour and it makes those snacks taste so much better. For me, though, the big win is simply feeling an improvement in my self-concept. It’s given me confidence to set a fitness goal and achieve it, and it makes me hopeful about what lies ahead.
5 Steps to Getting Back in Shape
If you want to feel better and look better, try these tips:
- Be realistic. If you haven’t been to an exercise class in 10 years, you may want to position yourself in the back row and move at your own pace. Don’t sign up for a marathon quite yet. The less realistic you are, the more you’re setting yourself up for failure.
- Make yourself accountable. Take a class, sign up for a personal trainer, meet a buddy at the gym, tell your family you’re making a change. If you keep it to yourself, it’s easier to let yourself off the hook.
- Stay in balance. As we age, we often struggle with balance issues, which can cause us to fall or fear a tumble. Practicing balance exercises every day can help.
- Take care of yourself. Make sure you’re eating right and getting lots of rest. Both will help you feel better physically and emotionally.
- Find some like-minded friends. It’s much easier to get out and exercise if you’re doing it with a friend. It provides accountability (see No. 2) and it will definitely get you focused on something other than slogging through a run or walk or bike ride. You’ll be visiting with your friend and the time will pass much more quickly.
By Ginny McReynoldsGinny McReynolds is a longtime writer. She holds an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Goucher College, and writes about communication, retirement, reinvention, self-concept and creativity in The Washington Post, Curve magazine, and Together.guide. Please visit her blog called Finally Time for This: A Beginner’s Guide to the Second Act of Life.
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Staying Fit as You Age
Many difficulties of aging are linked to an inactive lifestyle. And while your chronological age may be 55, your biological age can be 35 — if you follow a consistent exercise program. Before you start, check with your doctor, especially if you have any of the risk factors for heart disease (smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, or family history). Then, get moving.
A complete fitness program must include the following:
- Aerobic exercise. Walking, jogging, swimming, and dance exercise are good ones to try. Aerobic exercise works the large muscles in your body, benefitting your cardiovascular system — and your weight. Work up to getting 20 or more minutes per session, 3 or 4 days a week. Make sure you can pass the “talk test,” which means exercising at a pace that lets you carry on a conversation.
- Strength training. Lifting hand weights improves your strength and posture, maintains bone strength, reduces the risk of lower back injury, and also helps you tone. Start with a hand weight that you can comfortably handle for eight repetitions. Gradually add more reps until you can complete 12.
- Stretching. Stretching exercises help maintain flexibility and range of motion in joints. They also reduce the risk of injury and muscle soreness. Yoga and Pilates are good forms of stretching exercise; they build core body strength and increase stability.
Senior Exercise and Fitness Tips
No matter your age, it’s never too late to get fit. These easy tips will help you get started safely and make it fun.
There are many reasons why we tend to slow down and become more sedentary with age. It may be due to health problems, weight or pain issues, or worries about falling. Or perhaps you think that exercising simply isn’t for you. But as you grow older, an active lifestyle becomes more important than ever to your health.
A recent Swedish study found that physical activity was the number one contributor to longevity, adding extra years to your life—even if you don’t start exercising until your senior years. But getting active is not just about adding years to your life, it’s about adding life to your years.
Getting moving can help boost your energy, maintain your independence, protect your heart, and manage symptoms of illness or pain as well as your weight. Regular exercise is also good for your mind, mood, and memory.
Physical health benefits
Helps you maintain or lose weight. As metabolism naturally slows with age, maintaining a healthy weight is a challenge. Exercise helps increase metabolism and builds muscle mass, helping to burn more calories.
Reduces the impact of illness and chronic disease. People who exercise tend to have improved immune and digestive functioning, better blood pressure and bone density, and a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, osteoporosis, and certain cancers.
Enhances mobility, flexibility, and balance. Exercise improves your strength, flexibility and posture, which in turn will help with balance, coordination, and reducing the risk of falls. Strength training also helps alleviate the symptoms of chronic conditions such as arthritis.
Mental health benefits
Improves sleep. Quality sleep is vital for your overall health. Regular activity can help you fall asleep more quickly, sleep more deeply, and wake feeling more energetic and refreshed.
Boosts mood and self-confidence. Exercise is a huge stress reliever and the endorphins produced can actually help reduce feelings of sadness, depression, or anxiety. Being active and feeling strong naturally helps you feel more self-confident.
Does amazing things for the brain. Activities like Sudoku or crossword puzzles can help keep your brain active, but little comes close to the beneficial effects of exercise on the brain. It can help brain functions as diverse as multitasking and creativity and can help prevent memory loss, cognitive decline, and dementia. Getting active may even help slow the progression of brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Overcoming obstacles to getting active as you age
Starting or maintaining 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 that exercise is boring.
While these may seem like good reasons 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. And reaping the rewards of exercise doesn’t have to involve strenuous workouts or trips to the gym. You can gain the benefits from adding more movement and activity to your life, even in small ways. No matter your age or physical condition, it’s never too late to get your body moving, boost your health and outlook, and improve how you age.
Six myths about activity and aging
Myth 1: There’s no point to exercising. I’m going to get old anyway.
Fact: Regular physical activity helps you look and feel younger and stay independent longer. It also lowers your risk for a variety of conditions, including Alzheimer’s and dementia, heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers, high blood pressure, and obesity. And the mood benefits of exercise can be just as great at 70 or 80 as they were at 20 or 30.
Myth 2: Exercise puts me at risk of falling down.
Fact: Regular exercise, by building strength and stamina, prevents loss of bone mass and improves balance, actually reducing your risk of falling.
Myth 3: It’s too frustrating: I’ll never be the athlete I once was.
Fact: Changes in hormones, metabolism, bone density, and muscle mass mean that strength and performance levels inevitably decline with age, but that doesn’t mean you can no longer derive a sense of achievement from physical activity or improve your health. The key is to set lifestyle goals that are appropriate for your age. And remember: a sedentary lifestyle takes a much greater toll on athletic ability than biological aging.
Myth 4: I’m too old to start exercising.
Fact: You’re never too old to get moving and improve your health! In fact, adults who become active later in life often show greater physical and mental improvements than their younger counterparts. If you’ve never exercised before, or it’s been a while, you won’t be encumbered by the same sports injuries that many regular exercisers experience in later life. In other words, there aren’t as many miles on your clock so you’ll quickly start reaping the rewards. Just begin with gentle activities and build up from there.
Myth 5: I can’t exercise because I’m disabled.
Fact: Chair-bound people face special challenges but can lift light weights, stretch, and do chair aerobics, chair yoga, and chair Tai Chi to increase their range of motion, improve muscle tone and flexibility, and promote cardiovascular health. Many swimming pools offer access to wheelchair users and there are adaptive exercise programs for wheelchair sports such as basketball.
Myth 6: I’m too weak or have too many aches and pains.
Fact: Getting moving can help you manage pain and improve your strength and self-confidence. Many older people find that regular activity not only helps stem the decline in strength and vitality that comes with age, but actually improves it. The key is to start off gently.
What if you hate to exercise?
If you dread working out, you’re not alone. But you don’t have to exercise until you’re soaked in sweat or every muscle aches to make a big difference to your health. Think about activities that you enjoy and how you can incorporate them into an exercise routine:
- Listen to music or an audiobook while lifting weights.
- Window shopping while walking laps at the mall.
- Get competitive while playing tennis.
- Take photographs on a nature hike.
- Meet new people at a yoga class or fitness center.
- Watch a favorite movie or TV show while on the treadmill.
- Instead of chatting with a friend over coffee, chat while walking, stretching, or strength training.
- Walk the golf course instead of using a cart.
- Walk or play fetch with a dog. If you don’t own a dog, offer to take a neighbor’s dog for a walk or volunteer at a pet shelter or rescue group.
- Go for a run, walk, or cycle when you’re feeling stressed—see how much better you feel afterwards.
- Find an exercise buddy, someone whose company you really enjoy, and try activities you’ve never tried before—you may find something you love. At worst, you’ve spent time with a good friend.
Building a balanced exercise plan
Staying active is not a science. Just remember that mixing different types of physical activity helps both to keep your workouts interesting and improve your overall health. The key is to find activities that you enjoy—based on the four building blocks of fitness. These are:
What it is: Maintains standing and stability, whether you’re stationary or moving around. Try yoga, Tai Chi, and posture exercises to gain confidence with balance.
Why it’s good for you: Improves balance, posture, and quality of your walking. Also reduces risk of falling and fear of falls.
What it is: Uses large muscle groups in rhythmic motions over a period of time. Cardio workouts get your heart pumping and you may even feel a little short of breath. Includes walking, stair climbing, swimming, hiking, cycling, rowing, tennis, and dancing.
Why it’s good for you: Helps lessen fatigue and shortness of breath. Promotes independence by improving endurance for daily activities such as walking, house cleaning, and errands.
3: Strength and power training
What it is: Builds up muscle with repetitive motion using weight or external resistance from body weight, machines, free weights, or elastic bands. Power training is often strength training done at a faster speed to increase power and reaction times.
Why it’s good for you: Strength training helps prevent loss of bone mass, builds muscle, and improves balance—both important for staying active and avoiding falls. Power training can improve your speed while crossing the street, for example, or prevent falls by enabling you to react quickly if you start to trip or lose balance. Building strength and power will help you stay independent and make day-to-day activities easier such as opening a jar, getting in and out of a car, and lifting objects.
What it is: Challenges the ability of your body’s joints to move freely through a full range of motion. This can be done through stationary stretches and stretches that involve movement to keep your muscles and joints supple and less prone to injury. Yoga is an excellent means of improving flexibility.
Why it’s good for you: Helps your body stay limber and increases your range of movement for ordinary physical activities, such as looking behind while driving, tying your shoes, shampooing your hair, and playing with your grandchildren.
Types of activities beneficial to older adults
Walking. Walking is a perfect way to start exercising. It requires no special equipment, aside from a pair of comfortable walking shoes, and can be done anywhere.
Senior sports or fitness classes. Keeps you motivated while also providing a source of fun, stress relief, and a place to meet friends.
Water aerobics and water sports. Working out in water reduces stress and strain on the body’s joints.
Yoga. Combines a series of poses with breathing. Moving through the poses helps improve strength, flexibility and balance, and can be adapted to any level.
Tai Chi and Qi Gong. Martial arts-inspired systems of movement that increase balance and strength. Classes for seniors are often available at local YMCA or community centers.
Getting started safely
Getting active is one of the healthiest decisions you can make as you age, but it’s important to do it safely.
Get medical clearance from your doctor before starting an exercise program, especially if you have a preexisting condition. Ask if there are any activities you should avoid.
Consider health concerns. Keep in mind how your ongoing health problems affect your workouts. For example, diabetics may need to adjust the timing of medication and meal plans when setting an exercise schedule.
Listen to your body. Exercise should never hurt or make you feel lousy. 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, or experience pain. And put your routine on hold if a joint is red, swollen, or tender to the touch—the best way to cope with injuries is to avoid them in the first place. If you regularly experience pain or discomfort after exercising, try exercising for less time but more frequently throughout the day.
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, cooling down, and keeping water handy.
Commit to an exercise schedule for at least 3 or 4 weeks so that it becomes habit, and force yourself to stick with it. This is much easier if you find activities you enjoy.
Experiment with mindfulness. Instead of zoning out when you exercise, try to focus on how your body feels as you move—the rhythm of your breathing, the way your feet strike the ground, your muscles flexing, for example. Practicing mindfulness will improve your physical condition faster, better relieve stress and anxiety, and make you more likely to avoid accidents or injuries.
If you have an injury, disability, weight problem, or diabetes…
While there are challenges that come with exercising with mobility issues, by adopting a creative approach, you can overcome any physical limitations and find enjoyable ways to get active and improve your health and well-being.
Support activity levels with the right diet
Diet as well as exercise can have a major impact on energy, mood, and fitness. Many older adults don’t get sufficient high-quality protein in their diets despite evidence suggesting they actually need more than younger people to maintain energy levels and lean muscle mass, promote recovery from illness and injury, and support overall health. Older adults without kidney disease or diabetes should aim for about 0.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight.
- Vary your sources of protein instead of relying on just red meat, including more fish, poultry, beans, and eggs.
- Reduce the amount of processed carbohydrates you consume—pastries, cakes, pizza, cookies and chips—and replace them with high-quality protein.
- Snack on nuts and seeds instead of chips, replace a baked dessert with Greek yogurt, swap out slices of pizza for a grilled chicken breast and a side of beans.
Tips for staying motivated
It’s easy to become discouraged when illness, injury, or changes in the weather interrupt your routine and seem to set you back to square one. But there are ways to stay motivated when life’s challenges get in the way:
Focus on short-term goals, such as improving your mood and energy levels and reducing stress, rather than goals such as weight loss, which can take longer to achieve.
Reward yourself when you successfully complete a workout, reach a new fitness goal, or simply show up on a day when you were tempted to ditch your activity plans. Choose something you look forward to, but don’t allow yourself to do until after exercising, such as having a hot bath or a favorite cup of coffee.
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.
How to stay fit when your routine changes
You’re on vacation
- Many hotels now have fitness centers. Bring along your exercise clothing or equipment (resistance band, bathing suit, or walking shoes).
- Get out and see the sights on foot rather than just by tour bus.
Caring for an ill spouse is taking up too much of your time
- Work out to an exercise video when your spouse is napping
- Ask a family member or friend to come over so you can go for a walk
Your usual exercise buddy moves away
- Ask another friend to go with you on your daily walk.
- Reach out to other older adults in your area—many are in the same boat, so be the one to break the ice.
- Join an exercise class at your local community center or senior center. This is a great way to meet other active people.
You move to a new community
- Check out the fitness centers, parks, community websites, and recreation associations in your new neighborhood.
- Look for activities that match your interests and abilities.
Illness keeps you out of action for a few weeks
- Wait until you feel better and then start your activity again.
- Gradually build back up to your previous level of activity.
You’re recovering from injury or surgery
- Talk with your doctor about specific exercises and activities you can do safely.
- Start slowly and gradually build up your activity level as you become stronger.
6 Summer Workouts for Older Women that You May Actually Enjoy
Many older women may be feeling a bit stiff and restless after sitting inside during a cold winter and rainy spring. I know I am!
Summer is the time to venture out into the world and get some exercise, establish healthy eating habits and have fun in the sun. Longer days bring more sunshine for an essential daily dose of vitamin D.
Whatever your age or fitness level, there are many workouts for older women that are ideal for the warm weather months.
These Summer Workouts for Older Women Will Get Your Heart Pumping
As you embark upon the summer season and if you want to increase your level of physical activity, remember that it’s important to start small. Even if you are used to doing regular fitness activities, it’s a good idea to go slowly if this is the first workout of the season or if it’s been awhile since you did this particular sports activity. Sports injuries are no fun!
If you have been sedentary for awhile or are looking to lose weight, it’s probably a good idea to consult with a doctor or personal trainer before you start a new fitness program, and start with a few minutes of exercise at a time and build up every day.
Another tip for health and safety is to always carry water and a snack and wear good shoes that fit – old or ill-fitting shoes might not support your feet and can cause a variety of injuries. Exercise is wonderful, but doing too much too soon, or exercising in the wrong way, can create disappointing setbacks. So be careful out there!
So, those warnings out of the way, here are a few specific ideas for workouts for older women this summer…
Get on Your Bike!
Don’t assume that you’re “too old” to ride a bike! Even if it’s been 30 years or more since you have ridden a bike, it’s never too late! Many cities have free bike rental schemes, or you can rent a road bike by the day or by the week if you want to give it a try without committing to an expensive bicycle purchase.
Start on a flat area away from the road until you get your confidence up – and be sure to go slowly, wear a bike helmet, use safety signals, and obey traffic laws.
Depending on where you live, bicyclists often have the right to ride in traffic along with cars – but you also have to stop at stop signs, obey traffic signals and follow the rules of the road!
Hit the Water to Pump Your Muscles
Swimming is one of the best workouts for us older women. Being in the water burns lots of calories and is great exercise for weak joints, since the water provides constant resistance to your muscles while also being low-impact on your body – you get all the exercise benefits with much lower risk of pulling a muscle or straining a joint.
Swimming is relaxing and is also fun with grandkids. Try Boating, Aqua Zumba or Water Aerobics to make swimming more social. Swimming – indoors or outdoors – is an ideal way to keep cool and get fit.
Get Back to Nature and Get in Shape with Hiking
Get out into the wild outdoors and find a hiking trail. Hiking in wooded areas is also a good way to find a cool spot to get out of the summer heat. Pack a picnic and walk until you are tired – take a break and enjoy the view. Wear good shoes, sunscreen, water and take it easy to start – there are many paved trails, established hiking trails and guided tours if you want to be more adventurous.
Relax Your Body and Mind with Tai Chi or Outdoor Yoga
Tai Chi is a Chinese martial art dedicated to slow movement, breathing, and control of body posture. Many cities are now offering Tai Chi classes, as well as Yoga classes, and often outdoors. These activities are great workouts for older women to try, especially if you can find an early morning class where you can watch the sun rising. Re-connecting with your body and your breathing is an ideal way to start the morning.
Hit the Tennis Court
Tennis a true “life sport” that people can play at all ages and stages of expertise – and even if your mental image of tennis is more along the lines of the high-speed grunting athletes at Wimbledon, the truth is that tennis doesn’t have to be a serious game.
If nothing else, taking up tennis can be a fun excuse to buy a cute outfit and hat. As a nice side benefit, playing tennis can also be a great way to meet new people, since it usually involves visiting a tennis club.
Use the Mall as Your Personal Gym
Summer is a fine time for outdoor activities, but in case of rainy weather or extreme heat and humidity, one of the other great workouts for older women is to go mall walking (in air conditioned comfort) with a friend. Remember to keep up a good pace, don’t stop at every shoe shop and don’t spend too much money – treat yourself to a sorbet or ice tea after your exercise time is up.
What are some of your favorite exercises for older women? Please join the discussion below.