For older adults, exercise is essential for maintaining cardiovascular and skeletal health, promoting healthy cognitive function, and preventing age-related disease. However, if you’ve been sedentary for quite a while, it may be challenging to get back into the exercise habit again.
Below are a few tips to help you reboot and restart your fitness routine in your older years.
1. Consult your physician.
For adults over 55 years old, it’s best to consult and have a checkup with your doctor before pursuing an exercise program. The Harvard Medical School also recommends working with your primary care provider and an exercise professional in building a safe and effective routine, especially if you have a heart condition, diabetes, osteoporosis, or arthritis.
2. Have a positive support system.
Before starting any program, ask for support from your family and friends to help keep your motivation and spirits up. You may ask your spouse, children, or friends to join you, if you’re signing up for a group fitness class. If you often meet up with friends for brunch or coffee, you can suggest that they join you for a walk or for a class. This way, you’ll feel encouraged to start and continue your regimen.
3. Start with an activity that you truly enjoy.
If you’re still quite averse to or unsure about working out, then start with a physical activity that you truly enjoy. Walking or playing with your dog, for example, should help reintroduce movement back into your body and will also be a gentle entry into cardiovascular exercise.
Gardening or birdwatching are also good ways to boost physical activity, while getting your daily dose of sunshine. The most important thing is that you start a routine or habit for yourself, and continue to build on that.
4. Build a well-rounded program.
When you are ready, start building towards a well-rounded program. Aerobic exercises can help boost cardiovascular health and improve circulation. Resistance training can also help increase bone density. Practicing yoga can also help you build strength, increase mobility, and improve balance—all of which are also needed to prevent fall-related injuries. A combination of these types of exercises can give you meaningful, well-rounded results.
Work with your physician and an exercise professional to see what types of exercise you can start with, and is appropriate for your level of fitness. Perhaps start with 75 minutes of exercise per week. Then after a few months, slowly increase the amount of time or days you incorporate physical activity in your week.
5. Take time to rest.
During exercise, your body is subjected to stress and your muscles need to recover and rebuild after strenuous activity. Ensure that you get enough rest and sleep throughout the week as well. You can even try relaxation activities, like mindfulness meditation or breathing exercises.
If you give your body enough time and space to recover, you’ll find that you’ll perform even better during exercise and will feel even more motivated to continue and pursue your fitness regimen.