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The Weather’s Fine: Ease into an Exercise Program

separator One of the biggest excuses for avoiding exercise is bad weather. Now that it’s spring, your biggest excuse doesn’t exist anymore. If you aren’t exercising regularly, now is the perfect time to get yourself into a routine.

We’re sure you already know how good exercise is for people of all ages:

  • It helps prevent high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and heart disease, among other conditions.
  • It’s good for your mental health.
  • For people over 50, regular exercise helps maintain and improve strength, flexibility and balance, all of which are important to your overall health and quality of life.
  • Regular, gentle exercise can help keep joints lubricated with synovial fluid, which helps to ease arthritis pain.

Here’s what’s NOT true
Some people stop exercising as they age because they believe that

  • Frailty and weakness are a natural part of aging
  • Your body doesn’t need exercise as you get older
  • Exercise is dangerous for older people
  • Exercise is beneficial only if it’s very difficult

It’s true that as you age, you’re more likely to need to adjust your exercise routine to your body. It might be too hard on your knees and hips to jog, for example. An extremely vigorous weight lifting routine may need to be toned down a little bit to keep you from injuring your muscles. But all bodies need to keep moving, no matter how old they are. Even people in their 90s notice a benefit when they start exercising. Imagine how your car would function if you only drove it to the end of the driveway every day!

How should you get started?
Talk with your doctor first. Your doctor will be able to help you create an exercise program that’s compatible with your health status. Advice from your doctor will help you avoid injury, identify the best kinds of exercise for you and determine how long and how fast you should exercise each time.

Give yourself plenty of time. If you haven’t been very active in a while, it makes sense that you’ll need to ease into exercise gradually. Don’t expect to be able to go as fast and as long as you were able to years ago—at least not at first. Maybe you used to be able to walk three or four miles at once, and maybe you can still build up to that. But start out with a smaller goal, say one mile, and see how that feels. If there’s no pain and you’re feeling strong, then increase your distance gradually.

Stop at the first sign of pain. You need to do this gradually, and if there’s pain, that’s your signal to stop. If that knee starts to twinge, your shoulder starts aching, your back begins to give you discomfort, stop and rest. 

Choose activities you like. This is one of the keys to sticking with your program. Obviously, if you like what you’re doing, you’ll want to keep on doing it. Swimming is a good exercise for many people because it’s easy on the joints. But if you hate to swim, don’t even bother trying to make yourself do it. So take some time to identify the things you like to do. What about dancing? That counts as exercise. How about walking with a group of people? Even though you’re talking with friends, you’re still moving, and that’s the whole point. There are a lot of options out there—gyms that have programs geared to seniors, classes at senior centers, yoga for beginners…really, once you start looking, the opportunities to exercise are endless.

The Australian Physiotherapy Association; The National Institute on Aging.
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