Author: Dr. David Bell, Orthopedic Surgery & Sports Medicine
Physical activity is beneficial for our health and fitness at all ages. It’s important to not let aches and pains keep us from a healthy and smart exercise program. Keeping strong, fit and flexible as the body gets older is key to:
- Prevent falls
- Maintain bone strength and density
- Reduce risk of disease
- Reduce blood pressure
- Keep living independently
The CDC recommends that older adults get at least two hours of moderately intense aerobic activity per week . Brisk walking and participating in strength training at least twice per week are recommended as part of a smart activity program.
So, where do you begin if you’re out of shape?
If you have been relatively inactive, don’t stress. You can start with a few simple changes: add an evening walk to your schedule each night or sign up for a yoga class. Any movement is better than none. Some gym memberships come with personal training benefits, which may be particularly helpful for staying on track and deciding which activities are right for you.
And don’t forget your doctor! Doctors are not only able to run tests to make sure you’re in good shape to take on certain activities, they can also suggest activities specific to the conditions, aches, and pains you have. Exercise may actually help alleviate some chronic pain, such as arthritis.
Exercising the right way can help you maintain your mobility and your ability to do everyday tasks, like getting around the house and making meals. However, done wrong, exercise can result in injury, which can limit your ability to do things and make you hesitant to exercise again. As an older adult, it is important you take precautions to prevent injury before, during and after exercise.
Here are a few things to remember:
- Always ease into exercise. It is hardly ever a good idea to wake up one day and decide to jump into an intense workout program. Start small and build up to longer, harder workouts. Likewise, when starting a workout session, set aside some time to warm up. Do light exercise like walking, slow jumping jacks, and stretching to get your body warmed up and ready.
- Ask questions! Having the right technique is key to preventing injury. If you’re starting something new, like weight training, seek out help to make sure your technique is correct.
- Mix it up: Sticking to one exercise multiple days a week can lead to overuse, strain, and injury. Your muscles need rest to recover. Make sure your workout plan uses a combination of different activities so you don’t put too much strain on one muscle group at a time.
- Stop! If you experience pain during an activity, stop what you’re doing. Pushing through the pain and continuing to work out could make the issue worse.
To learn more about activities that may be beneficial to older adults and see sample exercises, visit the National Institute on Aging’s guide to exercise and physical activity.