- Kristina Walker, Certified Personal Trainer
Aging Gracefully; Maintaining Vitality: Senior Fitness Series Part Three
As people grow older, they often worry about having enough money to live their golden years in a fashion they are accustomed to or as they anticipate retirement. Older adults should be as concerned about having enough muscle and energy left to move, function properly, and maintain their physical independence. Exercise is the blueprint for aging slower. People of any age can slow much of the physical decline associated with aging by exercising on a regular basis.
It Part 2 of this series, I covered the basics of developing a training programs. Some people will simply skim the information and then talk themselves out of acting. Excuses are easy. Here are some common misconceptions you can dispel to keep seniors moving.
I’m too old to exercise.
Fact. The body is increasingly resilient. People 70, 80, 90 years young show huge improvements in fitness. Your residents are never too old to begin. In fact, they cannot afford not to exercise. Muscle strength, dense bones, and a strong heart are essential for a quality older life. Exercise is medicine!
I have no energy, so I can’t exercise.
Fact. If your resident is out of shape and exhausted before the day begins, it seems ludicrous to consider the possibility of adding exercise to their schedule. However, if they start slowly, they’ll build stamina and strength quickly. Before long they will have enough energy to play with grandkids or enjoy personal recreation. It’s a Catch-22; they have no energy because they are not active and they are not active because they have no energy. Start moving!
I need to get in shape before I begin a resistance training program.
Fact. A resistance training program can be the first step and the most important part of one’s training. Your residents should not wait. They can start building muscle today and change their posture, appearance, speed up their metabolism, build stronger bones and maintain physical independence.
I can lose weight through diet alone.
Fact. Many older adults who gain weight are eating fewer calories than previous years, but continue to gain fat weight because they are losing muscle. Aerobic exercise and diet alone are not the answer. Your residents need to strength train too. You can still be “skinny fat”. This term refers to individuals who appear “skinny”, but have a higher ratio of fat than actual lean muscle mass.
Middle-age spread and aging are natural, so why bother with exercise?
Fact. Middle-age spread is normal, but far from natural. Getting out of shape, gaining pounds, and being more susceptible to a host of life-threatening illnesses are common too, for most Americans. But, why be average in a largely unhealthy world? Exercise will help your residents keep weight off, avoid degenerative diseases like Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, handle stress better, and feel good too.
Exercise is all or nothing. You either do it all the time or you don’t.
Fact. Your residents will never be able to come up with the perfect scenario. The goal of perfection is the best setup for failure. Exercise done consistently, even 3 days a week, over time, can be a winning formula. If they get off track, hop back on as soon as possible.
I don’t have time to exercise.
Fact. Your residents can’t afford not to exercise. Exercise will increase their energy and vitality. It should be scheduled as an appointment not to be missed. At a minimum, walking or cardiovascular exercise should be done 3-5 times per week and strength train twice a week for 20-25 minutes.
Don’t let your residents buy into the myth that they have no control of their decline as they age. Their overall function will not be what it was when they were 20 years old, but the most severe aspects of aging related to inactivity will be minimal. An active 70-year-old can have the same aerobic capacity as a sedentary 25-year-old. Help them chose an active lifestyle.