Regular exercise has so many health benefits that it truly does seem miraculous—and that holds true for those who decide to start working out in their 50s, 60s and even 70s and 80s.
While people of all ages exercise in order to lose or maintain weight, there are many “bonus benefits” to working out that can really pay off for those age 55 and better. Regular exercise can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and even some cancers. It also strengthens muscles and bones, which can improve your ability to do nearly anything, from your opening a child-proof prescription bottle to hauling groceries or climbing in and out of your car– all the things that can keep you active longer.
Regular workouts have been proven to boost your overall mood, and combat depression. They even improve brain health and can strengthen your spatial memory (that is, remembering how to find your way around a familiar town). And exercise can actually extend your life!
Steps for Getting Started
Here are some tips for building your own solid program of regular exercise:
First of all, if you are not currently exercising, your first step should be to consult with your physician, and get his or her input and consent on the type of exercise you want to do.
There are two components to any solid fitness plan: cardiovascular activity (cardio) and strength training. Both contribute to the amazing benefits I mentioned earlier, so please be sure to include both in your plan.
Cardio: From Zero to 150
Cardio is physical exercise of low-to-moderate intensity that depends primarily on the aerobic energy-generating process. For your cardio exercise, find something you’re interested in and can enjoy long-term. Think beyond jogging – join a dance class or walking group, or try water aerobics or zumba. Finding a workout buddy will help you stay on track. Or you can simply start walking regularly—with the ultimate goal of walking 10,000 steps per day. Wear a pedometer and watch those steps add up!
When you’re just getting started—particularly if you are not a habitual exerciser or have health issues, start slowly and work your way up. You can begin with just five minutes a day and add to that a few minutes at a time. Include a brief warm-up and cool-down before and after every session. Once you’re accustomed to exercise, your ultimate goal is 150 minutes per week of cardio exercise.Strength Training Tips
Many older adults enjoy regular fitness classes (like water aerobics or Zumba), or they’ll get moving by playing bocce ball together. These are great ways to enjoy physical activity, but don’t neglect the strength training.
Always practice safe strength training by working with a personal trainer or a class instructor, particularly when you are just starting out. You can either lift weights or use weight machines, and to enjoy the health benefits, you should plan on a session two to three days a week, with at least a day between sessions.