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Exercise Basics for Seniors

How to Get Started With Exercise

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Updated April 26, 2011

Exercise is important for everyone, but no one reaps more benefits than seniors.  There are so many benefits, from protecting you from diseases to boosting your mood, that it outshines almost anything else you can do for your health.  The question is, how do you get started?  How do you do it if you have an injury, arthritis, joint pain or heart disease? How do you deal with fears that you'll injure yourself or do the exercises wrong?  These are legitimate concerns, but they don't have to stand in your way.  Learn the basics of exercise and how you can get started today.  Remember, you're never too old to start

1. The Benefits of Exercise for Seniors

If you're reluctant to exercise or you think you're too old, think about what just a few minutes of daily activity can do for you: 

Learn more about how exercise can make your life better.

2. Exercise Basics

Knowing the basics of how to get started, where to exercise, what equipment you need and how to set goals can prepare your mind and body for what's to come.  Take the time to make sure you have everything you need, from equipment to knowledge, so you start out on the right foot:

  1. When to get medical clearance
  2. What to wear to exercise
  3. Where to Exercise - Join a gym or workout at home with basic home fitness equipment
  4. Helpful fitness tools, websites and gear
  5. How to set your goals
  6. How to track your progress

Learn more at my Beginner's Corner.

3. Cardio Exercise - Getting Started

Cardio exercise is an important part of your workout program, helping you strengthen your heart and lungs, burn calories and build the endurance for all the things you need to do each day.  Cardio protects the body against a variety of problems, especially those that can occur as we age, such as weight gain, heart disease, diabetes and certain types of cancer. 

And cardio isn't just for healthy adults.  If you've had heart disease, cancer or other illnesses, talk to your doctor about how exercise can be an important part of your recovery.

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4. Strength Training - Getting Started

What if there was one thing you could do to lose fat, increase metabolism, reduce back pain, relieve arthritis pain, improve quality of life, lower high blood pressure, protect you from heart disease and diabetes, manage depression, prevent falling and boost your confidence?

It sounds too good to be true, but exercise can do all of that, especially strength training which, unfortunately, too many seniors aren't doing. Loss of muscle can contribute to many, often preventable age-related problems, but a simple strength program two times a week can do wonders for your physical and mental health.

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5. Flexibility Exercises - Getting Started

If functioning at your best is one of your goals, spending time improving your flexibility should top your list of things to do.  Having full range of motion in your joints means you can easily bend, move, lift and stretch - movements you need to do all day long, from putting on your shoes to working in the yard.

Stretching regularly, along with cardio and strength workouts, keeps your joints supple and flexible.  Not only that, stretching is relaxing and reduces stress, making it one of the more enjoyable ways to move your body each day.

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6. Balance Exercises - Getting Started

Balance is another aspect of our health and fitness we don't think about until it's a problem.  Even the smallest movements - Walking, getting in an out of the shower, getting in and out of a car - require balance and, as we get older loss of muscle, strength and flexibility can compromise balance, leaving us more susceptible to falls.

There are no specific guidelines for balance exercises, but it's easy to incorporate balance training into your life.  Some simple ideas:

 

7. Setting Up a Complete Cardio, Strength and Flexibility Program

Even with all the information in the world, actually setting up a program can be a little scary.  How do you know what your body is capable?  Where do you start?  The resources below offer a variety of choices, but you can also start with something simple:  Walking for 15-20 minutes a few days a week, for example, and a basic total body strength program two days a week. 

Getting started is often the hardest part, but knowing exactly where to start can give you the confidence to take that first step:

8. Exercising With Common Injuries, Illnesses and Conditions

There are any number of reasons we don't exercise but, if you're in pain from an injury, illness or medical condition, exercise may be the last thing you feel like doing.  It's not easy finding ways to exercise when you have to work around a physical problem, but it may be one of the best things you can do to manage pain and make life better.  In fact, exercise can help with a number of conditions including:

You should always talk to your doctor first and you may want to consider working with a personal trainer who has experience with your issues if you need help figuring out the right way to exercise.

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