8 Tips for Exercising Safely as a Senior
We’ve all been hearing our whole lives how important exercise is. The longer you’ve lived, the longer you’ve been hearing the recommendation to exercise regularly. But once a person reaches their senior years, exercising comes with greater risk.
Getting in a regular amount of exercise is at least as important for seniors as for any other age group, but the consequences of injuring yourself while working out are more serious. That makes exercising safely as a senior a bit trickier, but it’s certainly still possible.
With a few extra precautions, seniors can keep up their health with regular exercise without ending up in the hospital due to strains or falls. Here’s how to keep your exercise routine safe as you age.
- Talk to your doctor before trying out a new exercise.
Your doctor is familiar with you and your health issues. They’ll know any particular types of exercise issues you should be aware of and can advise if you need to take a more careful approach to something you’ll be trying or avoid it altogether.
As an added benefit, your doctor will likely be pleased to hear about your plans to pursue different or new exercises. If you’re like most people, you’re more used to making shameful admissions to your doctor than sharing plans about improving your health, so now you finally get to come in with a question that will impress them.
- Stretch regularly.
Stretching is a good habit for everyone to develop, but it’s especially useful for seniors to do in order to maintain their flexibility. Try to get into the routine of doing stretching exercises for a few minutes every day. Not only will regular stretching make any other type of exercise you do easier, it will make lots of day-to-day tasks you need to do easier to manage, like reaching up to remove dishes from your kitchen cabinet or getting dressed in the morning.
- Know your limits.
This is one of the most important tips for exercising safely as a senior.
Some parts of exercise culture emphasize always pushing yourself and working harder. That might be ok for your average 25-year old body builder, but it can be extremely damaging for seniors. Pushing yourself past the point where you’re comfortable during exercise is very likely to lead to injury.
Pay attention to how your body feels as you exercise and if what you’re doing starts to hurt, either switch to an exercise that works out another part of your body or take a break. If something continues to hurt long after your workout (beyond the typical soreness that follows exercise), don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor about it.
- Work with a trainer or instructor if you’re doing something new.
When you do branch out to try a new work out, start in a class or with a personal trainer. Yes, it costs more than trying to do it on your own with a video or instructions from the internet, but a skilled professional will ensure that your form is good and you aren’t doing any particular moves in a way that could end up hurting you.
Eventually, you should be able to switch to doing the exercise on your own, if that’s your preference. To start though, get that extra guidance.
- Stick with senior-friendly exercises.
There’s not one clear standard for which exercises are ok for seniors, since all seniors are built differently and have different physical issues. Even so, there are a number of exercises that are best avoided in your senior years if you want to avoid injury.
Even ruling a few types of exercise out, you still have loads of options for exercises that are safe for seniors. In particular:
- Tai chi is well known for being great for seniors, in particular for helping to improve balance.
- Water exercises are a reliable choice, since you get a good workout, but don’t have to worry about falls or putting as much strain on your muscles.
- Balance exercises are a smart choice since they reduce the risk of falls.
- And a number of other easy, but valuable exercises like going for walks or doing yard work, can pay off without feeling like too much work.
You have no shortage of safe exercise options to stick with as you age.
- Eat plenty of protein.
Protein is important in helping your body recover after exercising. Make a point of including protein in your diet when you exercise, so your body can better handle any strain the workout puts on it.
That shouldn’t be too hard, protein is present in a lot of common foods – eggs, meat, beans, and yogurt, just to name a few. If you’re not sure about how to find the right balance in terms of the quantity of protein to take in, talk do your doctor or a dietician.
- Drink plenty of water.
Proper hydration is an absolute necessity when you work out (and in life in general). Even if you don’t feel thirsty, do it anyway. Seniors tend not to feel thirst as often as they did in their younger years, even though they still need to drink as much water as ever. Dehydration can have serious effects.
Keep a big glass or bottle of water nearby during your workout and make a point of drinking lots of water throughout the rest of the day as well.
- Rest when you need it.
Don’t work out every day. That sounds counterintuitive – we all tend to think the more exercise, the better. But your body needs recovery time. Take at least one day a week off, or if you find working out is making you feel fatigued or sore all the time, up it to two or three days.
If you feel like you still need to do something on those days, a simple walk or some gardening can keep you active while still giving your body a break from more intense work out sessions.
Now you can no longer use fear of injury as an excuse. You know it’s possible to exercise safely as a senior; you just need to get into the habit of doing it. If you’re having a hard time, try out different types of exercise to see if you like some types more than others. Try to get into a routine and don’t forget any of these safety precautions. Better health pays off in so many ways, you’ll be glad you did.