Fitness for Older Beginners

Photo Credit: Shustov  CC-BY-SA-3.0
It’s never too late to start a fitness program of regular exercise and a healthy diet. Older adults can benefit from beginning a fitness program at any age, even if you have been inactive for years. Walking, bicycling and swimming are good, low-impact exercises for older adults. Those who suffer from arthritis will benefit from low-impact exercise to help manage pain and keep the joints from becoming stiff. Low-impact exercises also help stimulate the metabolism, which helps with the regulation of blood sugar and cholesterol. Endorphins produced in the brain are natural mood elevators that also reduce pain. Consult with your doctor before beginning any exercise or fitness program, especially if you have been sedentary for years. In addition to walking, bicycling and swimming, exercises that are easy on the joints and help to maintain flexibility and mobility include rowing and elliptical machines and treadmills. If a gym membership is not in your budget or schedule, there are home exercise machines available at major retailers or fitness stores. Sometimes gyms sell used equipment at tremendous savings over a new machine. 

Begin your exercise program slowly and work your way up to at least 30 minutes each day. Try walking for 5 minutes every day for one week. The next week add 5 minutes for a 10 minute walk. Soon you will be walking for 30 minutes without feeling too tired. Once you can walk for 30 minutes, try speeding up your pace to a brisk walk for the same amount of time. Brisk walking is a great way to get your  heart pumping and your lungs working at maximum capacity. Walking is one of the best ways to get a good cardiovascular workout with minimum risk of injury. 
As people age they begin to lose muscle mass and their bones may lose density, becoming soft or brittle. Strength training, along with a healthy diet that includes plenty of vitamins and calcium, can help to prevent bone loss and maintain muscle tissue. Start with a 1 or 2 pound dumbbell weights when beginning strength training. Firm up your arms and keep your joints flexible by performing 5 biceps and 5 triceps exercises every other day. It’s important to let your muscles rest between strength training exercises so that they can heal and rest. When you can do 10 curls (5 biceps and 5 triceps) without feeling tired, increase the number of repetitions. As you grow stronger, add more weight (1 pound at a time). You may experience some muscle soreness, but this is normal. A mild over-the-counter pain reliever can help. Always check with your doctor before taking any over-the-counter medication, especially if you are taking prescription medications. 

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