SAN DIEGO - You’ve heard it all your life: Exercise is good for you. But it’s too late to start. You’re afraid of injury and failure, feel limited by chronic disease and conditions, and have misconceptions about what type of exercise is appropriate. Besides, you’ve finally reached your "golden years" and there really isn’t any point in worrying about physical fitness – right?
Wrong. The American Council on Exercise (ACE), a nonprofit fitness advocacy organization, says it’s never too late to reap the benefits of a regular exercise program – even if you have never exercised a day in your life.
May 27, National Senior Health & Fitness Day, is a great time for seniors to start enjoying healthier, active lifestyles, and ACE is here to help them get started.
According to the Fitness Products Council, 14.2 million people age 55 and older exercise frequently. With one out of every four Americans now over the age of 50, more and more will be turning to fitness to maintain and enhance their quality of life.
"Active seniors will improve their quality of life, reduce the risk of disease and increase mobility and independence," said Gwen Hyatt, an ACE spokesperson specializing in senior fitness. "There may be some limitations, but they should be able to participate in moderate exercise," she said.
According to ACE, most people can significantly improve their fitness with 30 minutes or more of brisk walking daily. Research shows that you can even benefit from exercising three times a day for 10 minutes at a time. Pain is not needed for gain! One of the reasons so many people quit is because they can’t maintain an intense program.
Moderate physical activity also improves digestion, aids in sleep, reduces stress, improves endurance and is good for managing lower-back pain, arthritis and diabetes. ACE recommends that seniors begin with non-jarring aerobic activities such as swimming, cycling, walking and low-impact aerobic dance. Other popular workouts among seniors include aqua-aerobics, yoga, Tai Chi, line dancing, square dancing, ballroom dancing, and gardening. Most important is picking an activity they enjoy and sticking with it.
Fitness programs should include aerobic exercise, strength or resistance training, and flexibility exercises. Tufts University research found that even the most elderly and unconditioned can benefit from strength training. Current exercises that emphasize balance and posture are also important for older adults. Before embarking on a new workout regimen, Hyatt recommends that seniors consult their physician and get medical clearance to begin a program.
How to Get Started:
- Get help: Personal trainers are not just for the rich and famous anymore. A personal trainer can help develop a safe and effective exercise program and provide motivation. Instead of signing up for two sessions per week every week, spread out a package of visits over a longer period of time (say six months). Make sure instructors are certified by an internationally recognized professional organization, such as ACE, and have some specialty training in senior health and fitness. ACE offers free referrals to certified fitness professionals anywhere in the country by calling (800) 825-3636.
Libraries, bookstores and sporting goods stores are filled with books and videos specifically targeted to, or appropriate for, seniors that can start them on a program and teach them new techniques. ACE recommends the following books and videos for seniors:
Ageless Fitness Fresh Start, Volume I & II
Lilias: Yoga Workout Series for Beginners
Sit and Be Fit: The 30-Minute Workout, All Sitting Exercise (Sit and Be Fit also offers videos geared to various medical conditions)
Videos are available at select stores and through Collage Video: (800) 433-6769.
Fitness After 50, by Walter H. Ettinger, Jr.,MD, Brenda S. Mitchell, PhD, and
Steven N. Blair, PED
The 90-Day Fitness Walking Program, by Mark Fenton and Seth Bauer
Full-Life Fitness, by Janie Clark
Weight Training Past 50, by Tom Baechle and Wayne Westcott
Books are available at select stores or through Human Kinetics: (800) 747-4457.
- Pick an activity you’re going to enjoy and stick with. If you like exercising with a group, join a health club or community center. Contact your local YMCA, park and recreation departments and health clubs to see what kind of group exercise classes they offer. Three national organizations, American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), Older Adult Services & Information Systems (OASIS) and the Arthritis Foundation may also be good sources for finding local programs.
- If you prefer solitude, invest in a good pair of walking shoes and start walking. Work your way up to 30 minutes a day, five days a week.
The American Council on Exercise (ACE) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the benefits of physical activity and protecting consumers against unsafe and ineffective fitness products and instruction. As the nation’s "workout watchdog," ACE conducts university-based research and testing that targets fitness products and trends. ACE sets standards for fitness professionals and is the world’s largest nonprofit fitness certifying organization. For more information on ACE and its programs, call (800) 825-3636 or log onto the ACE Web site at www.acefitness.org.