Babies today have it better than those that came before them. That’s because, according to a 2007 report from the U.S. Census Bureau, a baby born today has a lot more life to look forward to than one born 50 years ago. A child born today can expect to be around for the next 78 years, whereas one born half a century ago had a projected life span of nine fewer years.
While some might suggest this longer life expectancy is a product of people taking better care of themselves, others might say it’s due in large part to advances in medicine.
Whatever the reason, it’s obvious more and more seniors are living longer lives, and many are hoping to add even more miles to their odometers. One way to do just that is through exercise. But for seniors who haven’t hit the gym in a while, starting an exercise regimen can be an intimidating, if not confusing, experience. Seniors looking to make exercise a regular part of their lives should consider the following tips along the way.
* Seek medical advice: The first thing you should do, even before lacing up your first sneaker, is visit a doctor. Each individual is different, and a doctor will let you know what you, personally, should and should not be doing as you begin a new exercise regimen. In addition, a checkup could reveal problems you might not be aware of.
* Recognize limitations: If you have not lifted a weight or run a step in 20 years, you’re not going to be able to simply pick up where you left off. Recognizing your physical limitations is paramount to the success of your new program. For seniors, the point of exercise is not to become a pinup guy or girl, but to get healthy or maintain existing health. Set realistic goals and acknowledge what you can and cannot do.
* Choose an enjoyable program: Choose an exercise program you know you will enjoy. An enjoyable program will encourage participation and increase the likelihood that you’ll stick with it. Whether it’s a daily walk with friends or a structured workout at the local gym with a trainer, the program you choose should be one you look forward to, and not one you see as a necessary evil.
* Take it easy: Whenever a new program is started, be it by a teenager, professional athlete or senior citizen, the temptation to overdo it is omnipresent. However, flying out of the gates is a great way to get hurt, particularly if you do not yet know your physical limitations. Take it slow as you begin a workout, and make a daily journal of what you do at the beginning. That way, should you encounter any aches or pains, you can always look at the journal or share it with your physician or trainer to determine what might be the root of the problem. As you grow accustomed to physical activity, you can then make adjustments to your routine accordingly.
* Do your homework on facilities: You may, especially if you are retired, prefer to workout during the mid-morning hours when kids are in school and working professionals are at the office. That can make choosing a gym easier for you than it is for students or professionals.
However, when looking for the right facility, do your homework and find a gym that has all that you want. Some gyms, for example, heavily emphasize weight training, and don’t offer other amenities such as racquetball courts or a swimming pool. Find a gym that best fits your needs. Many gyms offer free passes for up to a week so prospective customers can get a better grasp of what the gym has to offer. Take advantage of this common practice when choosing a facility.
* Make stretching a regular part of your regimen: Young or old, stretching is an integral part of any successful workout routine. For seniors, however, stretching becomes especially important, as you are more susceptible to injury than you were in your more youthful days. Stretching helps prevent muscle pulls and other injuries, and should be done both before and after a workout.
Working with a personal trainer is one way to set up a routine that helps you avoid injury while challenging your limits.