Are you growing older and feeling apprehensive about becoming weaker, frailer, and losing your sense of balance? Well, you don’t necessarily have to. There is a lot you can do to get back to the vitality and strength you once knew.
The best way to reinvigorate your body is through regular exercise, as part of an ongoing fitness routine. But what exercises are suitable and safe for older adults?
Of course, you will need to get clearance from your doctor to start a workout program to get back in shape. Yes, a workout program. Contrary to myth, no one is too old for exercise.
5 Safety Precautions for Older Adults before Starting a Fitness Program
But first, there are five important safety precautions you must take note of (as provided by NIH Senior Health). Namely:
- Start slow
- Have a general checkup and get clearance from your doctor
- If you have had a joint, hip or any other replacement, get a doctor’s clearance first
- Discuss the fitness program’s level of exertion with your doctor
- Stop the exercise when you:
- Have pain or pressure in your chest, neck, shoulder, or arms;
- Feel dizzy or sick to your stomach;
- Break out in a cold sweat;
- Have muscle cramps, or
- Feel severe pain in joints, feet, ankles, or legs.
A workout program should be composed of exercises done for at least 30 minutes, each and every day. However, your program does not have to leave you sweating or panting. You shouldn’t feel the need to dive into intense aerobic exercises or to be lifting weights like Schwarzenegger. Your workout or exercise regimen should be one which suits you, and which you enjoy. It should be adapted to your capabilities, interests, and lifestyle.
Your fitness program can take place at home, in the gym or outdoors, or in a combination of places. The routine can contain a range of exercises – from simple to demanding – depending on your present capabilities.
Whatever program you choose, your exercise regimen should be made up of three parts: the warm up, the bone and muscle build up exercises, and the cool down.
The warm up exercises will loosen and literally warm up your muscles so they are better conditioned to handle more strenuous activities, which prevents possible injuries. The bone and muscle build up or strength training exercises are necessary to fight bone loss and asthenia (or muscle weakening), both common occurrences of ageing. The cool-down exercises help you avoid a sudden drop in blood pressure, which can cause dizziness, unsteadiness or even collapsing or passing out.
While you can choose from a host of many fitness programs, below are four basic types of fitness programs to get you started. Remember to consult your doctor before attempting any of them.
1. Home-Based Fitness Program
You do not need to go to the gym, or even outdoors, to start a fitness program. You can stay in the comfort of your own home and still do a complete workout. If you do not feel that going out is an enticing idea, this regimen may be the one for you.
THE WARM UP
The most basic option for your warm up is to walk around the house for 10 minutes. Alternatively, you can spend 10 minutes on a treadmill or stationary bike, jogging, or marching in place. Try adding in some variations when marching, like widening the space between your legs, alternate pointing your toes, or alternating your heels and toes as they touch the floor in front of you. You can also do neck rolls, twist to the left and right with your arms raised and extended, or a variation with your arms folded, elbows out and fists in. Or try bending sideways in alternating directions, and then bend forward and backward, again alternately.
Movements to build your MUSCLE AND BONES UP
Your daily chores are actually great calorie burners and can be incorporated into your daily fitness routine. Activities like raking leaves, wiping your walls, mowing the lawn, or sweeping the sidewalk in front of your house are all vigorous enough to be considered exercise.
You can also join some fitness drills while doing regular tasks that perhaps don’t require much physical activity. For instance, while brewing your coffee you can do some repetitions of toe stands or knee extensions.
Note: throughout this post, different movements are cited. Below are some GIF's that show a few of these stretches and exercises care of the CDC site…
While you wait for your laundry, try some step ups or wall push ups. Making dinner? While waiting for your pasta to cook, try some hip abductions or knee curls. Even resting activities associated with relaxation can be active. If you’re watching TV, incorporate some biceps curls or overhead presses. If you have time to recline, give pelvic tilts or floor back extensions a try. Do one or more activities daily – as long as they last for at least 20 minutes, you’ll be getting a great at-home workout.
To cool down, sit on a chair and do some light bending and stretching exercises. You can touch your toes from sitting or simply try to reach down as far as you can. Again, you can do this in between your chores or even as you enjoy a movie or listen to your favorite music. You can also opt to follow the cool-down exercises laid out by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), which include: quadriceps stretch, hamstring/calf stretch, chest and arm stretch, and the neck, upper back, and shoulder stretch. Your cool down should last for about ten minutes.
2. Sports-Based Program
During your younger years, you may have been involved in a classic sport such as tennis, basketball, cycling, running, or swimming. If you are more into yoga, qigong or other martial arts, they will work too. If you have – or have had in the past – an interest in a particular sport or discipline, you’ll want to look into picking this routine up again.
There are specific warm up exercises for every particular sport or physical activity. Seek the guidance of a coach or trainer for specialized warm up exercises to make sure that your ideal muscles are stretched out in preparation for the particular sport or activity you’re taking on. Your warm up should take place at a suitable place for your actual physical activity. For example, if you’re going to swim, you should warm up before diving into the pool.
MUSCLE AND BONE BUILD UP
If you haven’t been active for some time, you’ll need to develop your bones and muscles slowly by first engaging in the milder aspects of your chosen sport. Your coach should gradually reintroduce your sport’s activities and skills.
For instance, when swimming you may be asked to do floating drills first, before moving onto simple strokes like freestyle, and eventually progressing to more difficult ones, like breast stroke. Another example is running. If you had trained for a 400-meter run in the past, you may start with a 25- or 50-meter run for a week or two, until it becomes effortless to do so. Then you can progress to a 75- or 100-meter run and so forth. The level of skill you begin at should be determined by your current abilities.
Again it is necessary to cool down. Walking or jogging slowly are great ways to bring your heart rate down, but you can also opt for a slower or less strenuous version of the sport in which you’re participating. This cool-down period should last for about ten minutes.
3. Drills-Based Program
If you aren’t into any particular sport and you are not a homebody, the drill-based regimen may be the best fitness program for you. This is also ideal for those who prefer to follow a strictly laid out fitness program. The focus is on following a set of exercises designed for your gradual overall or specific physical improvement. You can opt to do the exercises in your home, at the gym (where you can seek the aid of a fitness instructor), or at any other location you are comfortable in. This is a well-structured and comprehensive fitness program. If you are someone who is more likely to follow a given set of guidelines than your own program, then this program may be the right choice for you.
If you are enrolled in a fitness course at a gym, they will give you suitable warm up exercises before getting into the core of your class. If you are creating your own program, try using the warm up exercises found in the Home-Based Program above. If you are in the gym, make use of machines like the stationary bike, elliptical walker or the treadmill (at a slow speed).
Exercise to Build You Up
There are a number of exercises that can be used in this program. You can seek the help of a fitness coach to design a program that is customized for you. Ideally, your program will cover the main muscle groups (chest, abdomen, back, shoulders, arms, legs, and hips). However, your trainer may recommend you to concentrate more on one particular muscle group than on others.
For instance, your trainer may recommend that your shoulder and arm muscles need more attention, and introduce more exercises geared toward upper body development, such as weight lifting (using light dumbbells), push-ups (against the wall), resistance band exercises, and so on. If your coach advises you to work on your legs, you may be advised to do more on the treadmill, elliptical machine, or stair climber, or perhaps walking, jogging, or running.
If you are a part of a gym class or program, again, the cool down drills will be laid out for you. If you wish to create your own, you can choose to do some stretching exercises or slow jogging or walking. You can also adopt the cool down suggested by the CDC as listed in the cool-down for the Home-Based Program.
4. Consolidated Fitness Program
If you easily get tired of repetitive processes, this is the right program for you. Maybe you’d like to stay at home sometimes, while at other times you’d be more interested in heading outdoors, visiting the gym, or playing a particular sport. With this program, you can schedule on which days you’ll be at home, outdoors, or at the gym, depending on your preferences. You can change your location every day, every two days, every week, or whatever will best suit your needs and lifestyle.
In this program you have the liberty to choose the warm up, bone and muscle build up, and cool down exercises, by using any of the ideas outlined in the previous three programs. Just try to break up your routine into a 10-minute warmup, 20-minute buildup, and 10-minute cool down.
So, what is the best fitness program? Ultimately, that’s up to you. The best fitness program is one which follows these simple guidelines. It should be:
- Composed of warm up, strength building and cool down exercises
- Done for at least 30 minutes each day, and, most importantly
- Practiced daily and consistently.
A fitness program will be not be of any use if you are not able to keep it up and make it a habit – something you do regularly and repeatedly.While signing up for a specific class or gym membership can serve as motivation to keep up your routine, it can be more challenging to keep up at-home or independent fitness regimens.
Most of us will begin a new activity with the utmost enthusiasm. But as the days roll by, repetition makes the activity less exciting and our drive simply plummets, until the activity is stopped all together.
To make exercise a habit, it must become something you don’t even think about – something automatic.Tweet This!
To help you do this, try breaking your workout into small, enforceable habits.
For starters, take five minutes each day to do your warm up exercises. Commit to doing this every single day for 21 days (the length of time it takes to form a habit). After the third week, increase your warm up period to 10 minutes and repeat the 21-day cycle. Then, continue adding – maybe for the next three weeks you’ll also add in a five-minute strength-building routine and a one-minute cool down. Slowly progress until your habitual routine is 30 minutes long and covers all three aspects of a workout. This method will help to make sure that your workout is no one-hit wonder, but a program that will truly work wonders for you in the long-term.
A fitness routine can help you start to live your life again. Enjoy the strength, flexibility, and agility you used to have and you’ll feel full of energy, and potentially pay less visits to your doctor. It all starts with just five minutes a day. Truly, you’re only five minutes away from enjoying a prolonged, healthier and happier life – not just for you, but for your loved ones, too.