We’ve said it before, and we’ll keep on saying it: regular exercise unlocks immense benefits for all age groups. For seniors, exercise is the ticket to a happier, healthier retirement. Benefits include:
- Better sleep
- Improved mental health
- Weight maintenance or loss
- Looking and feel younger
Yet with the passing years comes the need to adapt exercise routines. With each decade, the body changes, and what used to be easy-breezy is now more challenging. This doesn’t mean people can’t continue exercising as they age. It just means they need to refine their approach.
Go See the Physician
Regular readers of the AlterG blog will recognize this common refrain: when introducing exercise into one’s life, or drastically changing one’s routine, it’s important to talk to the doctor first. That goes for people of all ages.
This doesn’t have to be complicated, though: an annual physical evaluation with a primary care physician is the right time to evaluate one’s suitability for regular exercise and any additional precautions they need to take.
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Start Simple and Progress Incrementally
Our age and physical condition are no match for the inner picture we have of ourselves (I’ll be 25 forever!). While relatable, attempting the same activities, with the same intensity, that we could earlier in life lead to injury.
Instead, set an objective to do one simple exercise, such as walking, toe touches, or stretching every day, or every other day, for two weeks. After two weeks, you’ll have developed the habit of exercise on which you can build toward a more advanced senior exercise routine.
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Establish Baseline Flexibility and Balance
For the first couple of weeks, make balance, core strength, and flexibility the areas of focus. This will help establish a baseline that will enable comfortable, safe, and effective exercise later on.
Modify Your Existing Routine
Don’t rule out a return to glory just yet! Many of the exercises and routines you used to do can be modified. Lifting weights, stretching, aerobics, yoga, Tai Chi—all of these can be done while sitting in a chair. Many seniors take to the pool for aerobic routines that are just as challenging, but not as hard on the body.
Work With a Physical Therapist
The question is, do seniors need a physical therapist? In some cases, physical disability, injury, fall risk, and other factors common among seniors necessitate work with a physical therapist. For seniors, working with a physical therapist can offer a number of advantages:
- Guided exercises that limit fall risk
- Identify and work on weaknesses or deficiencies
- Rehabilitate and recover from injury
- Go slow under the supervision of a professional
The supervision of a professional can be very beneficial. Physical therapists have tools and techniques at their disposal that are designed to help people get the most out of their workouts—regardless of age, condition, injury status—in sensible, safe increments.
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