1. Health
Paige Waehner

Exercise Basics for Seniors

By May 4, 2011

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I once had a 50-something-year-old client who had never exercised. The first thing she said to me was, "I'm too old to start exercising...but my doctor said if I don't, I'll end up a miserable old lady."

She was convinced she was way too old to lift weights and, after a few sessions, her attitude hadn't changed much, which was really fun for me.

After 6 weeks of training, however, she said, "I've changed my mind about exercise. I was able to walk up my basement stairs this week without using the railing, and I got all my mulch put out in record time this year." Eying me suspiciously, she said, "It appears you were right. This is actually helping me and I've decided I'm going to stop complaining about it."

After I got up off the floor from laughing so hard (even she had to laugh because complaining was her favorite part of our sessions), I noticed that she really did change her approach. Now she wanted those heavy weights, she wanted to push herself and, after a few months of training, she signed up for her first ever 5K race.

Her story inspired me to create a comprehensive exercise guide for seniors, covering all the important aspects of exercise, from how to get started to working around injuries, illnesses or medical conditions. If you're confused about exactly how to start exercising, Exercise Basics for Seniors can give you the confidence to take that first step.

If you're an older adult, I'd love to hear from you about your workouts. When did you start exercising and what does it do for your quality of life? Leave a comment and tell us about it.

More exercise resources for seniors.

May 4, 2011 at 9:37 am
(1) bev says:

At 54 years old I started loosing my legs. They felt like lead weights were attacthed to them. A friend of mine (We are the same age) forced me to strap on 2.5lb ankle weights and made me go walking with her for one hour every morning. It’s so good to have pushy friends. I’m 57 now and am feeling like I did in my forties. Am using my total gym. That is the power of weight training after 50.

May 4, 2011 at 11:24 am
(2) scout09 says:

I must be in denial or something. I’m almost 52 and I have never considered myself a senior. Maybe because I work out and still feel young, vital and energetic. I agree though that it is never ever to late to start.

May 4, 2011 at 5:30 pm
(3) pat says:

I’m 72 and don’t consider 50 year olds seniors either. I teach Silver Sneaker classes, also take Yoga, Body Step and Zumba classes. It can be done !!! I have a problem with the picture of the back stretch that takes the head below the heart. Not good for Seniors!!

May 5, 2011 at 8:06 pm
(4) Ron says:

I am 67 and have worked out all my life. My focus has changed over the years: sports, then aerobics, and then weight training. My advice would be to focus more on weight training earlier. I get my aerobics in but am really focused on the weights because of loss of muscle mass. Coupled with this would be to stay within yourself and not waste time pushing beyond your capabilities; this typically leads to disaster. Start slow and get help early on before you hurt yourself. It’s well worth it!

May 9, 2011 at 5:24 pm
(5) Joan says:

I was 55 years old when I retired and decided I needed to make an attempt at getting my bikini body back (just a little humor). I was never overweight, but I was somewhat out of shape. I have been going to a gym almost every day for 7 years. I have worked with a trainer off and on. I learned a lot from him. I am now 63 years old and feel much healthier physically and mentally since I have started weight training and cardio. I hope it’s what will keep me out of a nursing home.

May 9, 2011 at 6:53 pm
(6) Rosie says:

After my annual checkup in 2009 the doctor said I was borderline diabetic. I could either lose weight or go on medication. I have always done exercise to a degree. I opted to lose pounds and that made a difference. I do about 30-60 minutes each day I have 3 DVD that I find very effective using 5 pound weights and Yoga or pilates plus walk 30-45 minutes. I am probably 15 pounds overweight but at age 66 I feel good and am able to cope with the execises and I do love walking especially in the spring and summer and fall.

May 9, 2011 at 7:08 pm
(7) wannabe says:

I will be turning 50 this year, had a bad knee pain bec of my hallux valgus. reading these comments motivates me to workout more. Hiring a Personal trainer is good advice for a beginner like me bec of my back pain. I never thought weight lifting is very good until i read some articles from this page.

May 9, 2011 at 7:33 pm
(8) Max says:

I am a Male, approaching 82 years, in my Youth, I worked hard
physically and I had no need for exercise. When I reached 35,
I started to work behind a Desk and soon realized that regular
Exercise was important. I began riding a bicycle and tried some
jogging (this was not for me); I started XC and Downhill Skiing,
Mountain Trail Hiking, Kayaking, regular 3 days per week swimming and a 45 min.to 1 hour Routine in the Gym, including
some weight Lifting, 50 to 100 Rep,s on moderate weights that
I can handle without too much Strain. I spend at least 50 days
per Season on Downhill Skis and ride a Bicycle 5000 km or more each year. I have enough Energy to last me all day and
as a Type 2 Diabetic I have to watch my weight, app.78 kg at
this time. I am convinced that regular Exercise is very important at any age, I see quite a few Seniors my age or
older that are in great Shape and they feel good about themselves.It is never too late to start.

May 9, 2011 at 9:20 pm
(9) Evy says:

I’ll be 59 years old this Thursday (happy birthday to me!!) and participate in boot camps and small group training. I love the challenge of strength training, circuits, and HIIT such as sprints, jump rope, etc. As others here have said, one can get better with age. I feel great, my body is in good shape, and I’m able to do what I want. I never expected to feel this good as I approach my 7th decade and I’m sure it is the exercise and clean eating that are responsible. It’s never too late to start. Instead of looking upon it as work, I see it as play and make a game out of challenging myself.

Attitude is everything.

May 9, 2011 at 11:53 pm
(10) Roger says:

I’m 74. When I was 55 the school where I worked moved to a different building. Although most of the work was done by staff members I found myself exhausted. I had stopped exercising after I retired from the Army, and I couldn’t find a copy of my preferred exercise program, DA Pam 21-1, published 1965. Boy, I wish I could find a copy of that — a great body-weight program. Anyway, I had access to a fitness center with a great variety of Nautilus machines and free weights, and started working out. I currently don’t have access to a gym (moved to a different town) but have recently started a variety of exercises. Very difficult because my wife is convinced that I’m old (I don’t agree) and should not exert myself. I work around her by waiting until she goes shopping of something, but it’s harder.

May 10, 2011 at 12:07 am
(11) patty says:

Everyone who has written is right on. I have been using a personal trainer for the last 3 years – I am currently 51. I love lifting weights. I can squat without help getting up and I can lift my 40 pound bags of dog food by myself and I have nice definition in my arms and legs. I go rock wall climbing and really am considering sky diving in the near future. I love life. Also, the way my training sessions are composed, it is like an aerobics workout as a bonus.

While other people my age are popping pills for high blood pressure, my blood pressure dropped from140/80 to 119 over 70. I still have about 15 more pounds to lose, but I just enjoy where I am right now and look forward to tomorrow.

May 10, 2011 at 7:04 am
(12) Janis says:

Fifty is the new 30 … at 52 I tell everyone that I’m 39 and holding :) I don’t look my age, somebody told me last week that I don’t look much past 25. (I’m on an Anti-aging regiment). I have always moved my body my whole life; though I’m weak on the weight training aspect of exercise. Though I feel I am about 10-15 lbs over-weight I feel good at my age and don’t feel that I am a senior at all. I think that it’s important to know something that keeps you moving and is fun. For me, it’s any kind of dance be it Ballroom, Belly-dance or Latin, even free-style.

May 10, 2011 at 3:37 pm
(13) wilma says:

Never stopped working out!
Taught all types fitness classes,including senior for 18 years.
Started at a Health Club at 21 yrs and still there at 73 yrs.
Walk daily 50 to 60 minutes around 2 t0 3 miles an hour and 3 times a week I work out with weights!
This is part of my life style.
Routine ..Routine………Routine,anyone can do this.

May 10, 2011 at 10:37 pm
(14) LSJ says:

Another topic I would like to see addressed is choosing workouts. I am a senior, 63, and have exercised. Senior exercise is often too easy, but regular classes with step, zumba etc too intimidating. WHere does a senior who does exercise fit?

July 12, 2011 at 11:03 am
(15) NBS says:

These comments are very motivating.
I see my 70 year old mother struggle just to get up from a chair, and I know I don’t want to be like that.
I’m 44 now and exercise off-and-on. I need to make a regular habit/routine of it.
I’ve done aerobics (DVD or walking), but not weight lifting.

I would like to see suggested workouts for various age groups. I understand that those who exercise regularly are not bound by age to a type of workout, but would like something to help me get started – and to understand what precautions I should be aware of at my age.

Thank you,

July 29, 2011 at 12:10 pm
(16) Kathleen Walker says:

I am 65 and although I kept fit in my early years I sluffed off in my forties. At 55 I stated in again and began with a program as well as hiking, cycling and backpacking. Even though I have health issues I still keep going. I am in pain whether I sit or whether I work out so being as healthy as I can is what I aim for. This year I trained for a 45 km. run on a mountain trail. Going up 8500 feet. It was awesome. The hardest thing is trying to find people who will do all these things with you. Kathleen

July 29, 2011 at 2:42 pm
(17) Val Vassay says:

I have exercised most of my life, or at least since I left school at 16. I’ll be 60 in October and I don’t feel any different to when I was 20 – although I have a few more facial wrinkles, but that’s about it. I am still very flexible and strong and am rarely ill. I am sure that this is largely due to the fact that I have always exercised. I don’t intend to stop doing it either!

August 28, 2012 at 9:42 am
(18) Theresa says:

how to stay focused after age 60 to losing weight. I work long hours and too tired to excersize when getting home. My desk job keeps me at my desk. Somehow at my age it seems harder to stay focused too. I come home and ravage my dinner even over eating often and not care if I eat ice scream or whatever. It is pleasurable to eat and watch TV and finally relax.

I just find it harder at my age to even be motivated for more than a few days and harder to want to excersize during the day like taking long walks, etc during lunch time. I’d rather just keep doing my desk job. I get home then don’t care how much or what I eat. I do find it quite satisfying. I don’t have too many days off since on commission I have to take appointments on my days off. But more important is that I find after age 60 harder to focus and concentrate, let alone having long term goals like loosing 70 lbs. I am over 200 lbs. At age 61 is the problem the focusing difficulty, is that normal? If it is what is the solution given my work hours?

February 3, 2014 at 3:04 pm
(19) Marvin says:

! am 78 years young and workout 3 days a week.
Use the treadmill for a 20 minute mile.
Floor exercises for my back and medal legs.
15 reps each on 12 machines, arms, legs. shoulders.
under various max weight from 35 lbs to 100 lbs.
Use planks on abdomen since i have a large abdominal hernia
So, no crunches.

February 22, 2014 at 4:59 am
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April 5, 2014 at 7:41 pm
(21) Marcia says:

I am 66 years old – kind of out of shape – but love, love, love Zumba and have been doing Zumba for 4 years. The classes I am in are mostly 30-40 years old and I can keep up with the best – just can’t jump much or I pee my pants ha, ha I go 3 times a week and I also do Silver Sneakers with the Seniors twice a week. Love Zumba music – you just want to move, move, move – worry about the aches and pains later !

April 10, 2014 at 9:45 am
(22) Val Kelly says:

I am 75 and have been attending a zumba class once a week since last October. I absolutely love it but have found in the last couple of months that I am getting stiff around the hips especially when sitting for any length of time. I still walk the dog every day and have no trouble with that but my hips ache in bed at night !! Should I give up the Zumba ?

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