Looking for Suggestions on How to Get Fit if You’re Over the Age of 65? Try These.

Category News & Blog | Time | Published July 25, 2023

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It’s no secret that being active is good for one’s health, and that’s true for people of all ages. But what if you’re in your 60s, 70s or older? What if you haven’t exercised in a very long time—maybe not since gym class in school? And what if you have physical limitations?

Not to worry. It’s never too late to increase your activity level. With some precautions and modifications, nearly everyone can find a way to incorporate more movement into their usual routine.

According to the National Institute on Aging and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, being more active (and likely more fit as a result) may help you:

  • Manage your weight
  • Sleep better
  • Strengthen your immune system
  • Build muscle mass
  • Reduce your risk for dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, certain types of cancer and stroke
  • Improve your balance, mood, metabolism and memory
  • Increase your strength and stamina
  • Control your blood pressure
  • Prevent or better manage chronic diseases such as arthritis, diabetes and heart disease
  • Lower stress and anxiety

What Does It Mean to Be Fit?

Ask a dozen doctors and personal trainers how they define fitness, and you’ll probably get a dozen different answers.

Most will agree there are multiple criteria for measuring fitness, including endurance, strength, flexibility, ease of movement and cardiovascular efficiency. Most will also agree that a person’s physical appearance—including one’s weight—isn’t necessarily a good indicator of fitness.

Based on the measures listed above, someone who is carrying around some extra pounds but who is physically active may be considered fit, whereas someone who is slender but sedentary may not.

Rather than defining fitness by your clothing size, how many miles you can walk or how many repetitions of a specific exercise you can do, it may be better to think of fitness as being able to do the activities you need to do, or enjoy doing, to live your life fully.

For example, if you have young grandchildren, can you lift them onto your lap or get down on the floor and play with them? If friends invite you to join in a group activity, will you be able to participate? Can you walk your dog without getting winded?

What’s the Best Way to Get Fit?

If you ask that same group of doctors and personal trainers for advice on how to get in shape, again, you’re likely to get a variety of answers. But there will also be considerable agreement on points such as these:

  • Begin slowly—especially if you’ve been inactive for quite a while. It may be tempting to adopt a gung-ho attitude, but trying to do too much too soon could lead to injury, burnout or a sense of defeat. While it’s good to challenge yourself, be patient and be careful. Be the tortoise, not the hare.General guidelines recommend aiming for about 30 minutes of moderate physical activity five days a week. You may not be able to do that much right away. Or ever. But don’t let that stop you. Start with 10 minutes and go from there. Any amount of activity is better than no activity.Including rest days in your physical activity schedule is important. They give your muscles time to recover and can help you keep a positive attitude about your fitness routine.If you’ve been sedentary, or if you have health or mobility issues that may limit what you can do, it’s a good idea to talk with your doctor before embarking on your fitness journey.
  • Choose activities you’ll enjoy. If you can’t picture yourself working out at the gym, check with your local community or senior center to see if there are fitness classes that might interest you.If you like to swim, or if you’d like to try water aerobics, is there a pool nearby you can use? Exercising in a pool is an effective way to increase your fitness level without putting a lot of stress on your joints.Do you like to dance? You could take ballroom dance lessons, sign up for Zumba classes, or put some lively tunes on and dance in the privacy of your home. You’ll be more likely to stick with your fitness plan when you choose activities you like to do.
  • Set reasonable goals and expectations. Even with the same amount of time and effort, a 75-year-old body isn’t going to achieve the same results as a 25-year-old body. We all lose muscle mass and lung capacity as we get older, though certain exercises and activities can slow the rate of decline.Give yourself adequate time to achieve your goals. Getting into better shape won’t happen overnight, but if you keep going, you’ll get there eventually—and that’s what matters. When starting out, you’ll most likely notice mental and emotional benefits (better mood, for instance) before physical changes. Soon, you may find you’re sleeping better and feeling more energetic. Over time, you’ll experience additional benefits like improved balance.
  • Seek motivation if it will help you. If getting into better shape were easy, we’d all do it, right? Some experts say if you have to rely on willpower to get your workout underway, then maybe you should try a different activity. But let’s face it: Some days, it’s difficult to talk yourself into doing what you know you should do, even if it’s something you usually enjoy.Having a friend join you, whether you’re walking, working out or taking a tai chi class, can add incentive and make the activity more fun. You could even plan to have a healthy protein-packed bite to eat afterward.Sometimes simply signing up for a class is enough to ensure you’ll follow through. Incidentally, online classes are available for many types of physical activities, and they can be a particularly good option when you’re starting out because you won’t be focused on being seen.If scheduling time with a personal trainer (or hiring one) is an option, go for it. Look for someone who has experience or specialized training in working with older adults.

Easy Does It, Every Day

If exercising sounds too much like work, you can still build more physical activity into your day. Even small amounts of activity can make a difference. Here are a few tried-and-true suggestions:

  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Park farther away and walk the extra distance.
  • If you’re not going far, walk instead of driving.
  • Walk your dog longer. (No dog? Walk with a friend who has a dog or volunteer at an animal shelter.)
  • Get your groove on to some favorite music while doing chores around the house.
  • When watching TV, walk around or march in place during commercial breaks.
  • Move around while you’re on the phone, even if you just walk in place.

And Every Day Is Easier at Cottage Grove Place

Life in our community is easier in so many ways, from the home maintenance we provide that frees up your time and energy, to the social activities we offer that make it easier to form new friendships.

Living here also makes it easier to get—or stay—fit. Along with a variety of exercise equipment and classes in our fitness center, we have Wellness Walks on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. If you’re curious about our classes and activities, take a look at the schedule in this month’s issue of The Chronicles, our newsletter for residents.

You can be as active as you want to be here, and there’s always a neighbor or nearby friend you can invite to join you for a class or an impromptu walk in our beautiful courtyard.

We encourage you to come experience our community in person so you can see firsthand just how easy—and fulfilling—your life with us can be. Let’s connect.

Featured Image: Shutterstock / Rawpixel

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