How Should a Senior Start an Exercise/Fitness Program from Scratch?

As I noted in my last blog post, the biggest misconception about seniors and fitness is that it is too late to affect any change to a person’s wellness level. Regular exercise can boost your energy, maintain independence, provide opportunities for socialization, reduce stress and help manage the effects of illness or disease.

But how should a senior start an exercise or fitness program? Whether you are 65 or 95, the answer is simple: have a goal. Do you want to get back on the golf course? Take up bicycling? Run a 10-minute mile? Swim two lengths of an Olympic-sized pool without tiring? Knowing what you want to achieve is an essential first step.

Senior with weightsYour next step is to understand your current level of physical fitness. Don’t focus on what you can’t do, but what you can. It’s best to involve a professional at this point, so consult your physician or physical therapist. They can assess your individual strengths and limitations, including balance, range of motion, flexibility, bone density, mobility and lifestyle factors that can help or hinder your progress.

From there, you and your health professional, personal trainer or program for seniors – like SilverSneakers – can chart a path to help you reach a goal. (ALWAYS consult a professional before beginning a new fitness routine.)

You should also calibrate your expectations to your fitness level. For example, if you’ve never been a runner, you’ll start your new fitness routine by building up your endurance, strength and balance. No one can eat the elephant in one bite; you have to start small and work up to your goal.

Another tip: Chart your progress and celebrate incremental successes. Each time you reach one of the milestones toward your personal goal, mark the occasion in a special way. Little celebrations can to a long way in keeping you motivated and excited about your fitness program.

Looking for more information? Check out one of these resources:

SilverSneakers is a fun, energizing program that helps older adults take greater control of their health by encouraging physical activity and offering social events. The organization features many exercise regimens, including those for beginners.

SparkPeople.com is a great resource for charting physical fitness activities, goals and progress.  The site also offers easy-to-follow expert advice on nutrition and exercise. In fact, the site has a great article about seniors and cardiovascular exercise that — if you’re interested in improving your fitness level — is a must-read.

Remember, there’s no magic equation for what you can or can’t do in your 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and beyond. Regardless of your age, there are plenty of ways to get become or remain active. Set your goal and get started today!

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