Exercising as you Age can be Challenging
Getting older adults to get moving and stay moving can be a challenge.
The reasons older adults don't stick with, or start, a regular exercise routine are numerous, said Dr. William Hall, director of the Center for Healthy Aging at Highland Hospital and professor of medicine at the University of Rochester School of Medicine in New York.
"Many of the women's groups I work with think it's not very womanly," Hall said, adding that others have said to him, "Wouldn't I feel self-conscious running around in Lycra?" Yes, Hall tells them, but tight-fitting workout clothes are not a requirement [for exercising].
Fear of looking like they do not know what they are doing is also ac reason some older adults don't workout or exercise, said Beverly Hills based trainer, and popular health and wellness author Jeff Behar.
Fear of falling is another reason some older adults don't work out or get any physical activity, said Amy Ashmore, a spokeswoman for the American Council on Exercise, who is also a personal trainer and group fitness instructor and an adjunct professor in sports and health sciences with American Military University and the College of Southern Nevada. Ashmore specializes in exercise guidelines for adults over 55.
"As we age, many changes occur that affect our balance," Ashmore said. "For many people, these changes are scary, and for that reason many older people are afraid to exercise."
Hall , Behar and Ashmore focus on positive motivators, emphasizing the many positive benefits of exercise. For some, Hall said, the competitive spark still exists so he taps into that.
Hall encourages people to have a exercise or fitness goal -- whether it's to learn a new fitness skill, beat a neighbor in an exercise event or just surpass their own best record.
If costs aren't an issue, Hall said, he encourages seniors to buy exercise gear that appeals to them. Something as simple as a new pair of shoes or socks can help people overcome inertia.
Hall also talks about the physical benefits of exercise too. "The medical evidence that's coming out now about the value of exercise for everything we worry about as we age, including cognitive disorders [like dementia, alzheimers and mild cognitive imapirmanet] is compelling," said Hall.
Staying active can reduce the risks for heart disease and help maintain a healthy weight, according to research, and it can help those with existing health problems such as arthritis, heart disease and diabetes.
And body image is still a motivator, whatever a person's age, Hall said. When Hall coached 200 older adults in a triathlon training program, the participants were initially self-conscious when they showed up on the swim deck, he said. But soon, as exercise led to shedding of pounds and a feeling of well-being, confidence grew. "The women started showing up in much more svelte swimsuits," said Hall.
Exercising Tips for Seniors
Other tips from, Behar, Hall and Ashmore to help seniors keep moving include:
- Think of exercise as social time. Socialization is linked with health benefits, so why not combine the two?
- “Think about adding a little exercise into your normal routine,” says Behar. This can be as simple as walking instead of driving to your local store.
- Rediscover your inner competitor. One participant in Halls' triathlon training program told Hall his goal: "I want to beat Bill Hall." Hall, a senior himself, said he laughed -- but said it motivated him to do better in the triathlon, too.
- Accepting a realistic goal. Hall said he reassures seniors that they don't have to run a marathon or even do his triathlon training to reap benefits. "If they can give us 150 minutes of exercise a week, that's probably as therapeutic as you need," he said. That's just 2½ hours a week -- and, he says, housework counts, too.
- Focus on "process goals." Ashmore said that means focusing on the current exercise session. "I am finishing 15 repetitions on the triceps press-down," for instance, not: "I need to lose 20 pounds."
SOURCES: William Hall, M.D., director, Center for Healthy Aging, Highland Hospital, and professor, medicine, University of Rochester School of Medicine, Rochester, N.Y.; Jeff Behar, MS, MBA, personal trainer, health and wellness author, and CEO of ww.MyBestHealthPortal.net, wwww.MuscleMagFitness.com, and www.PersonalTrainingPro.com;c Amy Ashmore, Ph.D., certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor, Las Vegas, and adjunct professor, sports and health sciences, American Military University and College of Southern Nevada, Las Vegas