Updated: Aug 6
Blowing out the myths about senior exercise
Are you one of those who have given up on including senior exercise into your daily routine? Many older adults do. On average, just one out of four between the ages of 60 and 85 exercise regularly. Too many people assume that they're beyond out-of-shape, too tired, sick, or just plain too old to exercise. Sorry but they’re way, way wrong.
More and more doctors today are telling senior patients exercise is good for people of any age. Senior exercise can help maintain muscular strength and prevent or at least slow down loss of bone density. It will lessen the symptoms of most chronic conditions like coordination and balance, boost your memory, and even your mood.
These are common myths that delay or stop older folks from exercising. Keep reading and we’ll share some expert advice to get you going.
1. Getting older means stop everything and just watch TV.
The average American watches 35 hours of TV a week. That’s 140 hours a month sitting accomplishing nothing while your body and brain literally waste away. It’s time to stop watching other peoples dreams and start living your own dreams.
These days we’ve got people who have decided to be so active that they train for and compete in body building contests and mini-marathons. Granted these are at the extreme end of the fitness spectrum. But what if all you did was get half that fit. You’re going to feel like a million bucks. These folks are in their 70s, 80s, and 90s. A lot of the symptoms that we associate with old age like feeling weak, tired or sick, are actually symptoms of inactivity, not age. Oh, by the way, don’t ever tell people that walking to your mailbox is exercise. You may get “the look”.
Exercising will improve more than just your physical health. It will boost memory and help delay the onset of dementia. Exercising will help you maintain your independence and way of life. By maintaining a strong and flexible body as you age, you'll more likely be able to keep doing the things you enjoy and less likely to need help while doing it.
2. It isn't safe for someone my age to exercise, I might fall and break a hip.
In fact, exercise can reduce your chances of a fall. Exercise builds strength in your legs, arms and improves balance and agility. If you feel yourself starting to tip over you’re more likely to be able to catch yourself. Exercises included in yoga or Tai Chi may help in improving your balance. If osteoporosis is a concern, one of the best ways to strengthen leg muscles and increase bone density is with regular exercise.
Myth: Since I'm older, I need to check with my doctor before I exercise.
As long as you don’t have a serious medical condition, unexplained symptoms or haven't had a physical in a long time, go ahead and check with your doctor before you start exercising regularly. Take it slow in the beginning and increase weights or distances gradually. Otherwise, go ahead. Just because you’re older shouldn’t be the only reason.
3. I can't afford a gym or to buy equipment.
Go for a walk, free. Ride a bicycle, free. Play with the grandkids until they get tired, free. Detergent bottles filled or half filled with water or sand make excellent hand weights, free. The key is do it often and then keep doing it.
4. I'm sick, so I shouldn't exercise.
Now you may want to check with your doctor on this one.
If you have a chronic health problem like heart disease, arthritis, or diabetes, exercise is most certainly a great idea.
"Exercise can be like a silver bullet for lots of health problems. Many people don’t realize exercise can do as much or more for them than the 3 to 8 medications they take every day. Being a couch potato will only worsen the symptoms of arthritis, diabetes and heart disease causing patients to take even more pills and suffer from more side effects.
We’ve had people go from 13 pills a day down to 2. Get moving.
5. I never exercised before, it's too late for me to make a difference.
Baloney. No matter your age, 75, 85 or 95, the human body reacts to the forces you place upon it. If you lift light weights you’ll get slightly stronger and toned. If you lift heavy, you’ll become tough as nails.
If you walk up hills, you’ll breath much better and strengthen your heart. If you run up steps, walking up hills will become child's play. Remember, for every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction.
6. Exercise will hurt my joints.
If you don’t start exercising they’re going to hurt worse. Movement promotes the production of synovial fluid in all the joints. It’s a natural lubricant for elbows, knees, hips and shoulders.
Exercising for better health and wellness is a lifestyle change. Meaning that if you just do it for a couple months and stop, all the things that were wrong with you when you started will just come back. If you see yourself being able to maintain a schedule that includes regular exercise and sensible eating, believe me, you’ll feel better, look better and begin to approach life’s challenges with a “I can do this” attitude. Go get ‘em Tiger!
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