Now that you know about the many types of physical activity and you’ve set your goals, you’re ready to go! This chapter has tips to help you get started, resume your activity if you’ve stopped, stay active, and even increase your activity level over time.
To help you get started and keep going, here are three ways to approach exercise and physical activity.
Physical activity needs to be a regular, permanent habit to produce benefits. Again, the key word is you. Set yourself up to succeed right from the start by choosing activities that appeal to you, exercising safely, charting your progress to see your success, and making your activity routine fit your personal lifestyle. Here are a few ways to make physical activity a regular part of your daily life.
Make it a priority. Many of us lead busy lives, and it’s easy to put physical activity at the bottom of the "to do" list. Remember, though, being active is one of the most important things you can do each day to maintain and improve your health. Make a point to include physical activities throughout your day. Try being active first thing in the morning before you get busy. Think of your time to exercise as a special appointment, and mark it on your calendar.
Make it easy. If it’s difficult or costs too much, you probably won’t be active. You are more likely to exercise if it’s easy to do. Put your 2-pound weights next to your easy chair so you can do some lifting while you watch TV. Walk up and down the soccer field during your grandchild’s game.
Walk the entire mall or every aisle of the grocery store when you go shopping. When you go out to get the mail, walk around the block. Join a gym or fitness center that’s close to home. You can be active all at once, or break it up into smaller amounts throughout the day. Do more of the activities you already like and know how to do.
Make it social. Enlist a friend or family member. Many people agree that having an "exercise buddy" keeps them going. Take a yoga class with a neighbor. If you don’t already have an exercise partner, find one by joining a walking club at your local mall or an exercise class at a nearby senior center. Take a walk during lunch with a co-worker.
Make it interesting and make it fun. Do things you enjoy and pick up the pace a bit. If you love the outdoors, try biking, fishing, jogging, or hiking. Listen to music or a book on CD while walking, gardening, or raking. Plan a hiking trip at a nearby park.
Above all, make it an active decision. Seize opportunities. Choose to be active in many places and many ways:
You’re more likely to stay active if you:
"I’m an active 62-year-old, but a family history of heart disease and high cholesterol convinced me that I needed more exercise. After I tried walking on a treadmill at a nearby community center, I knew I’d be happier outside. So, I got a step counter and started walking in my neighborhood. I’ve seen purple tulips bloom in spring and red dogwood leaves drop in the fall. I always come home with more energy for the rest of my day."
If you're thinking of moving to a retirement or assisted-living community, ask whether the community has a pool, exercise classes, walking trails, a golf course, or personal trainer. Does it have well-lit sidewalks so you can walk safely in the evening as well as during the day? Are there parks nearby?.
Most people tend to focus on one activity or type of exercise and think they’re doing enough. The goal is to be creative and choose exercises from each of the four types we’ve talked about — endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility. Mixing it up will help you reap the benefits of each type of exercise, as well as reduce boredom and risk of injury. You can use the Weekly Exercise and Physical Activity Plan in Chapter 7 to write down your activities.
If you lift weights, alternate these exercises with time on the treadmill or stationary bike. End your routine with stretching exercises.
If you focus mainly on endurance activities, be sure to add stretching, balance, or strength exercises to your routine. If you want to do strength exercises every day, alternate muscle groups, or exercise all of your muscle groups every other day. (See Weekly Exercise and Physical Activity Plan in Chapter 7.)
Getting older can mean more time for trips to see children and grandchildren or vacations away from home. People retire and move to new houses or even new parts of the country. Sometimes the unexpected happens — family illness, caregiving responsibilities, or the death of a loved one. All of these events can interrupt your physical activity routines.
These breaks can make it hard or even impossible at times to stick with your regular activities. But you can start again. Here are a few ideas to help you stay active or start again if you’ve had to stop:
Don’t be too hard on yourself. Recognize that there will be times when you won’t want to exercise, or it feels too hard. You are not alone; everyone has those feelings. Just try to get back to your activities as soon as possible. The sooner you resume some sort of activity, the better you’ll feel, and the easier it will be to get back into your routine.
Talk with your doctor about when you can resume your regular routine if you stopped exercising because of an illness or new symptoms.
Think about the reasons you started exercising and the goals you set for yourself. Remembering your motivations and how much you’ve already accomplished may help recharge your batteries and get you started again.
Ask family and friends to help you get back on track. Sometimes, you may want an exercise buddy. At other times, all you may need is a word of support.
Try something easier or an activity you haven’t done recently if you don’t like the activity you started. You might even want to try something you’ve never done before. Mastering something simple or new may give you the confidence you need to resume a regular exercise program.
Talk with your doctor or trainer. You may get the boost you need to move past the hurdle.
Start again at a comfortable level if you haven’t exercised for several weeks. Then gradually build back up. With a little time, you’ll be back on track.
Think creatively about other ways to exercise if you can’t do your regular physical activities because of bad weather or a change in your routine. For example, if caring for a loved one is keeping you indoors, try an exercise video, jog in place, dance around your living room, or walk up and down the stairs a few extra times. Just keep moving!
Be flexible. When your grandchildren come for a visit, reschedule your exercise during their nap time, or take them with you for a walk.
Believe in yourself! Feel confident that even if your activity is interrupted, you can start again and be successful. Don’t worry about the time you missed. What’s important is to focus on your fitness goals and start again at whatever level is possible for you.
Rural areas may have less traffic than big cities, but "a walk in the country" does require special care. Often the vehicles on rural roads travel at much higher speeds than pedestrians are used to, and drivers won’t expect to see someone walking on or near the side of the road. So, remember the following safety rules, and enjoy your walk!
Sometimes the reason you have to stop exercising is temporary; sometimes it’s permanent. There may be a change in your living arrangements or in your health, for example. Some are happy occasions; some are sad. Here are some ways to manage these breaks.
|A Change in Your Situation||
You’re on vacation:
Caring for an ill spouse is taking up much of your time:
Your usual exercise buddy moves away:
You move to a new community:
|A Change in Your Health||
The flu keeps you out of action for a few weeks:
You are recovering from hip or back surgery:
Once you start exercising and becoming more physically active, you’ll begin to see results in just a few weeks — you’ll feel stronger and more energetic. You’ll notice that you can do things easier, faster, or for longer than before. This tells you that your body is getting used to a higher level of activity. Now is the time to build on those benefits by doing more. Keep your starting point in mind, though. For some people, switching from 1- to 2-pound weights is a big step forward. For others, building up to walking briskly or even running is a reasonable goal.
No matter what your starting point:
Healthy eating and physical activity go hand in hand. See Chapter 6 for more on this topic.
"For more than 10 years, I jogged every day to clear the cobwebs and get my blood flowing. Imagine how awful I felt when I fell down the stairs and broke my ankle. At 54, I wasn’t ready to be a couch potato. After the cast came off, I had physical therapy. I worried about hurting my ankle again, but I wasn’t going to let the injury keep me down. At first, I walked slowly in my neighborhood, but I didn’t want to trip on uneven pavement. My physical therapist suggested I try a treadmill instead. Now, I go to the gym after work. I set the treadmill incline high, turn on my headphones, and walk. Sometimes, I listen to music or a book on CD. I miss the fresh air, but I don’t think about falling, and my stamina is back. Plus, I’ve added strength and balance exercises to my routine. In many ways, I’m in better shape now than before the fall and that feels great!"
Many people hesitate to exercise for one reason or another. In fact, exercise and moderate physical activity, such as brisk walking, are safe for almost all older adults. Even so, avoiding injury is an important thing to keep in mind, especially if you’re just starting a new activity or you haven’t been active for a long time. Talk to your doctor if you have an ongoing health condition or certain other health problems or if you haven’t seen your doctor for a while. Ask how physical activity can help you, whether you should avoid certain activities, and how to modify exercises to fit your situation.
You may feel some minor discomfort or muscle soreness when you start to exercise. This should go away as you get used to the activities. However, if you feel sick to your stomach or have strong pain, you’ve done too much. Go easier and then gradually build up.
See Chapter 4 for more safety tips.
The health benefits of exercise far outweigh any risks of injury. However, you can take some precautions to exercise safely.
Publication Date: May 2011
Page Last Updated: April 5, 2012