Exercise for older adults

January 9, 2008 6:07:00 PM PST
While there is an abundance of information and advice on how to become physically active, it's mostly aimed at a general audience. There are many considerations older adults face when beginning an active lifestyle. The 50-plus adult's physical capabilities and chronic diseases often make this individual's needs different than those of a younger person. Too often people jump into exercise or try to do what they did 20 years ago, injuring themselves in the process. Yet there are few things you can do that have a more profound effect on more bodily systems than exercise. Following are a few tips for older adults to encourage activity and minimize the risk of injury:

1. Check with your healthcare provider to see whether you'll need to consider any special modifications before starting an exercise program.

2. Before starting any program, examine all available options and pick a program you know you will enjoy. That way, chances for adherence are increased.

3. Start slowly and don't overdo it. Doing too much too soon will usually make you sore and discourage continuation. Start with short ten to twenty minute bouts of moderate activity and gradually increase both time and intensity.

4. Find a partner to exercise with you and keep you motivated. Whether it's a friend to walk with in your neighborhood or a personal trainer in a gym, that appointment makes it more likely you'll do the walk or workout.

5. Set specific, measurable short-term goals, such as "I will do a brisk, 10-minute walk in the morning before my shower, at lunch time and after dinner three days a week".

6. Try wearing a step counter throughout the day and aim to do 250 to 1,000 additional steps of brisk walking each day, until you reach 8,000 to 10,000 steps a day.

7. Include exercise for flexibility, aerobic conditioning, resistance training, and balance in your program.

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