Insightsthe blog of Porter Hills
Staying Active as We Age
Jocelyn Bunce, MPA, ACSM-CPT, NASM-SFS, Fitness Specialist
Often we decrease our physical activity as we age. While we may need to modify the exercises that we do, there is no reason to slow down! As an exercise professional I get all sorts of questions regarding fitness and exercise, especially when working with older adults. Here are some of the most common concerns individuals have as they age.
Why should I exercise?
A goal for every older adult is to remain as functional and independent as possible. The best way to achieve this goal is regular exercise. If we don’t use it we lose it and that includes an increased difficulty with everyday tasks as we age and loss of muscle mass. You can maintain and even gain strength no matter your age, with regular exercise.
How much exercise should I do?
This depends on your current fitness level and any health concerns. If you are not currently active, be sure to discuss your plans with your medical care team before you begin. If you’ve gotten the go-ahead from your doctor, start slow. Add extra walking into your day. Add extra repetitions of strength exercises throughout the day such as lifting and lowering the laundry basket or grocery bags. It does not have to be in a fitness center to be considered exercise. Over time slowly increase to 30-60 minutes of exercise most days of the week.
Is exercise safe for me?
There is some form of exercise that is safe for everyone! My motto is “exercise literally cures anything” and I haven’t been proven wrong yet. Studies have recently indicated individuals who are in the intensive care unit in the hospital have a decreased recovery time when exercise is incorporated in to their care. Be sure to work with a certified fitness professional, physical therapist or physician if you have special needs or concerns regarding your health and exercise.
Should I exercise by myself or in a class?
This is a choice that you will need to make for yourself.
Benefits of attending an exercise class
- Set day and time in your schedule so you can’t make excuses
- Instructor creates a fun and exciting workout for each class
- Comradery with others in the class
- A better understanding of what and why you’re doing certain exercises.
Benefits of exercising alone
- Scheduling flexibility
- Time to reflect on yourself
- Freedom to do what you want
- Can be done anywhere
No matter what you decide to do, it is very important to always tell someone when and where you’re going. This is important in case an emergency arises. Don’t forget to take a cell phone if you’re going away from home.
Should I be strength training?
Yes, everyone needs to spend time focusing on muscular strength and endurance. Strength training does not have to be in a gym lifting heavy weights, it can be simple and very functional so that we can maintain our muscular strength and endurance. Strength is the ability to lift an amount of weight 1 time and endurance is lifting an amount of weight many times. The more strength and endurance we have the easier our daily life is. Perform multiple repetitions of daily activities to make yourself stronger.
I’m most concerned about my balance, how can I improve it?
When you’re standing next to a counter, table, or holding the grocery cart in the store, balance on one foot and then the other. Stand with one foot in front of the other heel to toe like you’re on a tightrope.
As you’re balance improves make it more difficult
- Walk heel to toe using the wall for support
- Balance while keeping a table close by but your hands are not on it
- Increase the amount of time that you balance on one foot
Exercise does not have to be scary or overwhelming, start making small changes that include more movement throughout your day and you’ll notice improvements!