Okay, so the holidays are over and most of us have made New Year’s resolutions to get healthier. And “getting healthier” usually involves goals to lose weight and improve or even start fitness. Starting an exercise plan is essential for good health, but even more critical for seniors who are trying to get more active – whether by taking a fitness class for seniors such as “arm chair aerobics” or just increasing mobility by setting small walking goals. There is no doubt that even the smallest increase in activity can provide a power punch to health by increasing circulation, assisting with insomnia, improving heart health and even minimizing anxiety and depression. However, it is important to proceed with caution anytime an older adult begins a new type of exercise program to avoid injury such as strained muscles or even falls that could deter progress.
Home Care Assistance of Annapolis offers the top tips for safely starting an exercise plan that will enable you to increase your strength and stamina without worrying about becoming frustrated by a setback or injury. And don’t worry, research shows that consuming small amounts of dark chocolate can also have health benefits – but that topic I will save for another blog!
Consult with Your Physician
When embarking on any new exercise plan, it is important to talk to your physician to make sure your body is capable of performing new movements. This is especially important if you will be beginning any type of strength training or cardiovascular activity that could place strain on an underlying health condition. Once your physician has cleared you for your workout, keep up with regular exams to ensure your safety as you progress in your training.
Find an Exercise Partner
Working out alone is not only boring, but it can also be unsafe for seniors who are more prone to injuries and falls. If possible, recruit a friend or even a caregiver to accompany you on walks or assist you with balance during challenging parts of your exercise routine. On days where you may be exercising alone, stick to simple workout programs. Be sure to let a loved one know before you leave the house for a walk to ensure safety. Having an exercise buddy or a person who drives you to a fitness class also increases personal accountability. It’s harder to make excuses about why you aren’t able to show up that day.
Start Slowly and Listen to Your Body
Although it may be tempting to jump into your new routine, it is important to remember that doing too much too soon can lead to sore muscles and other setbacks. Instead, start with a few easier exercises and slowly add challenges as your body adjusts. Along the way, listen to your body for signs that you are doing too much, such as soreness and fatigue, that could signal a need for a break. Proper hydration, especially for seniors, is critical. You should always bring a bottle of water (or 2) with you to any exercise activity outside of the house and remember to drink water before and after exercise.
Remember that exercise shouldn’t be seen as “yet another thing the doctor wants me to do” or as a chore. Rather, view it as another way to increase mobility, independence and personal satisfaction. The beauty of exercise – whether your goal is to walk across the kitchen without using a walker or walking a mile, is that you can see progress with repetition. Chart your progress and pat yourself on the back after you have a week’s worth of moving under your belt. And grab that piece of dark chocolate as a reward (as long as it’s okay with your doctor)!