Good health is easy to take for granted when you have it. When you don’t, all aspects of your life can be downright tough, both mentally and physically. Staying healthy is crucial to a person’s overall well-being, and there are steps you can take to attain fitness, regardless of age.
Finding balance between the mind, body and soul is integral to a person’s happiness. Life changes older adults undergo are many, from retiring or changing jobs, to children moving away, to a different physical appearance. Exercise is crucial to achieving and maintaining good mental and physical health, but many older adults simply don’t get enough.
The good news is that it’s never too late to start. Regular exercise can be taken on at any stage of life and does not have to be high-impact, difficult, or boring. The many benefits of exercise include maintaining strength, agility, and flexibility, as well as boosting mental health. In fact, exercise can even help diminish chronic aches and pains.
If you’re new to a fitness program, start slowly and add a little more each week.
“Too often, people jump in with both feet, get injured and give up,” says Linda Melone, a health and fitness writer and fitness pro who helps women 50 and older get and stay in shape. “If it’s been years since you’ve done anything active, start with walks around the block. Or hire a trainer for a session or two to learn the proper ways to perform various exercises and to set up a basic program for you.”
Melone believes people are more likely to stick to a fitness program if they can exercise with a friend or family member. “You’ll enjoy it more and likely stick with it longer,” she says.
Beginners should set reasonable expectations and create a plan that’s sustainable. If you plan to exercise two hours daily for seven days a week, chances are you’ll burn out quickly.
“Fitness is a lifestyle and not something you do for two weeks and then quit,” says Mike Young, PhD, owner and director of performance at Athletic Lab sports-performance training center. “Making extremely radical changes in a short period of time can work but are more often than not, unsustainable over time.”
Results Take Time
Oftentimes, when a person jumps on the exercise bandwagon, he or she expects visible changes right away. Patience, grasshopper!
“Keep in mind that any results you get will be delayed, and you will not see them immediately,” says Mario Frapiccini, personal trainer. “Be patient—the rewards will come. However, results may not be as obvious as you think. Focus on the way you feel rather than any visual result.”
It’s hard to ignore the numerous pluses regular physical activity brings to a person’s life. Folks of all ages, genders and physical abilities who exercise as little as 30 minutes a day can reap huge benefits that include:
- Controlling weight
- Combating disease and health conditions
- Increasing energy
- Improving sleep
- Boosting mood
- Enhancing sex life
- Meeting new friends
- Augmenting brainpower
- Lowering stress
Finding Fun through Fitness
Exercise isn’t a chore when you find and stick with something you enjoy. In fact, when you discover something physical you like to do, it’s both fun and social. So dance, walk, play tennis, swim, find a Pilates or yoga class. Try something you’ve never done before!
Exercise comes in many varieties, shapes and forms—as do the people who participate. So find something that’s enjoyable, and start doing it regularly. “It’s well worth getting into the habit of keeping active, as we know it can help reduce the risk of heart disease along with many other conditions,” Frapiccini says.
Give Yoga and Meditation a Chance
Increasingly, older adults are turning to lower impact forms of movement, such as Pilates and yoga. Yoga, for instance, with its gentle stretches and body-weight-only exercises, benefits participants of any age. The key to practicing yoga is finding the right class and an instructor who can meet older participants’ needs.
One thing that makes yoga different from other group fitness activities is that yoga classes normally include meditation—a time to relax, de-clutter the mind and focus on simple concepts such as being thankful for life’s blessings.
Kimberly Rex is a proponent of the meditation aspect that accompanies yoga.
“Tuning into your breath and your heart, or walking with a focus on your breath and contact of your feet on the earth can be invigorating to your whole being,” said Rex. She is a certified Resonance Repatterning practitioner and wellness coach.
“Listening to music with your eyes closed for ten minutes can give you a tune-up, she says. “In this respect, spending time with yourself daily allows you to find your center, rejuvenate and move through your day with greater harmony and balance.”
Adam Dacey agrees. He’s the founder of Mind Space, a company training people in the ancient practice of meditation, believes that meditation is something that benefits not only the practitioner but those around him or her as well. “What we’re doing is changing our mind,” Dacey suggests in tip 15 of The 100 Meditation Tip series posted on YouTube. “As a result of changing our mind, our actions and behavior changes, and people in our life benefit.”
Act New and Feel New
Regardless of your current activity level, and never mind what you used to do, today is the day to start afresh. Feel invigorated as you learn a new way to exercise or resurrect a former love of a particular sport. Exercise with a friend, take a new class, give yourself quiet time to meditate. Sitting around too much isn’t good for anyone. Getting up and moving improves your body, mind and your soul.