Just because you’re getting older, doesn’t mean you’re doomed to spend your golden years sitting around. Staying active is important at any age, and maintaining a healthy exercise routine can be the key to a healthy retirement.
Exercise can help you control your weight, keep your balance, and maintain mental clarity. However, fear of injury and other misconceptions keep many seniors sedentary, leading to health complications. Today, we’re going to dispel three myths about exercise and aging, and give you tips on how you can stay healthy at any age.
“I go on a walk everyday! That’s enough, right?”
Walking is great, and something that most of us don’t do enough. It’s low impact, good for cardiovascular health, and a great social activity. Still, it’s not exactly a silver bullet for fitness.
There are five areas of fitness: strength, endurance, balance, posture, and flexibility. Every exercise we do engages one or more of these areas, and all of them are key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Walking isn’t bad by any means, but it only really trains your endurance. If you just walk, you might find yourself lacking in other areas.
Ideally, you want an exercise program that engages all five areas. For instance, you can engage your sense of balance by doing Tai Chi, or bolster your flexibility and posture while doing yoga.
“If I start exercising, I might hurt myself.”
Injury due to exercise is a legitimate fear, especially when it comes to things like lifting weights. However, exercise at any age has minimal risk of injury when done properly. You see, unless you’re training for the Olympics, most exercise is meant to train the body for things you’d do during your day-to-day life. For instance, lifting weights is training for lifting things like gallons of milk and loads of laundry. A proper exercise program will help you push your limits, but won’t overtax them.
You should talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program. A lot of people ignore this advice, but it is especially important for seniors. Your doctor is aware of your medical history and can recommend workouts appropriate for your health and fitness level. Don’t dive full-on into weightlifting or intense aerobics without understanding your limits!
“Exercising will exacerbate my existing health conditions!”
When you’re sick, working out is the last thing you want to do. Still, proper exercise can improve your prognosis if you have arthritis, heart disease, or any other chronic condition.
This might seem counter-intuitive: if your joints ache from osteoarthritis, you’re probably worried about causing further damage. That is a risk, but proper exercise can also strengthen the muscles and ligaments in your joints, helping reduce pain and stiffness. If you’re struggling with a chronic condition, consider consulting a physical therapist: they specialize in the movement of the body, and can guide you through a routine that can help reduce your symptoms.
“Working out is too expensive! I need a gym membership or special equipment!”
You don’t need special equipment to workout. You can do plenty of exercises at home with nothing but your body weight and household items. Plus, services like YouTube offer no shortage of free resources for people looking to try out new exercises. Still, there’s something to be said about taking regular classes and going to a gym.
If you’re a Medicare Advantage beneficiary, you may be able to take advantage of a benefit called SilverSneakers, which gives you access to gyms across the country at no extra cost to you. Not all plans include the SilverSneakers benefit, but those that do include classes, equipment, facilities, and online support. SilverSneakers is accepted at independently owned gyms and big chains like Planet Fitness, but all of them are welcoming to seniors looking to get fit.
If you’re just starting, try taking a SilverSneakers Classic course to train your balance and posture. They include things like fall prevention drills, which provide a solid foundation for more intense workouts down the line. You can also take advantage of gym facilities like pools and saunas. Not a gym person? They have both live and on demand online classes at all fitness levels.
With a solid workout plan and support from your doctor, it’s easy to stay active no matter how old you are. Talk to your doctor about setting up a fitness plan, and you can start fitting exercise into your healthy, post-retirement lifestyle.