Here is how I see it. Seniors are no different than anyone else in regard to fitness. Sorry, but age is just not a good enough excuse. Life gives you a set of variables, and it’s your job to do the best you can with them. You, or your trainer, must work with your variables to make the best quality of life possible, regardless of age or health. Factors like age, medications and injuries are all small obstacles that are no more consequential than the challenges that younger people have.
In fact, seniors have advantages over younger people like:
Finally a little time for yourself
Kids are out of the house (hopefully)
Many targeted programs that were not available to previous generations
That being said, here are my fitness tips for seniors.
I’m too old to start
You are not too old to start. Perhaps too sedentary but not too old. Get out of your comfort zone and try some of the amazing programs that modern seniors have available to them.
I could get hurt
Yes, you might hurt yourself. Just remember that being sedentary kills a lot more people than just about everything else. Get a little help. Remember the best methods to basic fitness have not really changed. Yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi, gymnastics and massage are ancient techniques that give much better and longer lasting results than popular contemporary fitness fads. All good exercise programs are scaled versions of those core methods, and good trainers can show you versions that all abilities can handle.
You can’t just chalk up bad balance to bad genetics. Balance can be improved through exercise, especially exercise that is targeted to improve balance. You can learn this safely from many local resources. It’s called ‘slip and fall prevention’ but it’s not just about helping you react well when you fall, it’s about improving anything that requires balance and coordination.
If you don’t use it, you lose it. Very true. Yes, it is harder to gain muscle as we age. What doesn’t get more difficult with age? The good news is that you don’t need to do a lot to maintain muscle tone. A little resistance training for 20 minutes 3 times a week will serve the average person very well. Combine this with some walking and some stretching to keep you moving a little bit every day.
Simply put, muscle action stimulates bone growth. All the calcium pills in the world will never beat good old fashioned exercise and good nutrition. You must safely challenge your muscles to keep your bones strong. Stop drinking milk and just move more and sit less.
Yes, medications are affecting every function in your body. Be very careful with them. Work with your doctor on getting off of them as much as possible. The doctors I talk to agree that the side effects of drugs barely outweigh the desired effects. Packaging alone eludes to the bad vs. the good. Remember, medications are a last resort for sick people. The majority of people in the U.S. are on medications because they are lazy, not sick. The four major killer diseases are all preventable and caused by lifestyle choices.
Grandkids, travel, gardening, hiking, skiing, independence, self-esteem, quality of life … need I say more?
There are many local programs available to seniors. In fact, many programs are included with your supplemental health insurance. Check with your local health club or fitness center to see what is available. Remember that almost any fitness program and many sports can be scaled to any ability with the right person guiding or training you.
Steve Wells is owner of Midland Fitness.