You have heard it time and again, you benefit from exercise. Perhaps when you were younger you played a sport if not on an organized school team – but with your friends. As you were in your late 20’s or 30’s your way of exercising may have changed. It could have been for more aesthetic reasons. Also over time you have seen different types of gyms pop up in your area or read about them.
Do not hesitate to ask more and allow yourself to feel comfortable in the gym
Priorities change or evolve over time and also you start seeing some nagging injury creep up or know of others that have had some difficulty getting around. Walking into a huge gym with people dropping weights, grunting and using some things you may have not seen before could be an intimidating experience. But you know that you still need to get that blood flowing in some way.
Just like buying a car, do your homework and don’t feel bad about walking away. There may be some smaller (called boutique) studios that seem more inviting. Perhaps the larger gym does have some individuals on staff that are dedicated to working with the ever growing babyboomers and other groups. Or in both instances there may be a group class that is angled for people just like you!
For the business that you feel comfortable in, don’t be afraid to ask questions. All gyms that truly want to keep their clientele will be happy to show them the ropes of the equipment. Of course, personal training sessions could be an additional fee. However – think about that investment. If you really wanted to avoid hurting yourself (i.e. the right form or appropriate weight) and start moving better, why not work with someone to create a plan of attack? Ask questions and seek out those that are happy to help you.
Exercise doesn’t need to happen indoors, go outside and get moving
Another alternative is using the great outdoors. Especially if you live in a place where you are able to take advantage of nature, a hike can be a great way to exercise. Walking poles can be a useful accessory to take pressure off the knees and also give the arms a bit of a workout too.
One of my clients’ trains with me twice a week. I always give my clients an option of me assigning them “homework.” He took me up on that offer. My homework for him is to go for a hike as time and the weather provides. He purchased some good hiking shoes and often joins his friends on the trails. The transformation he and his friends saw was that his stamina increased. This is attributed to his effort in my sessions during the week and also being proactive to ask for homework.
Some mental notes to keep in mind before you get going
With all the above in mind, here are 10 fitness tips for individuals 40 and up. These are to give you some direction on your path to moving better. You know which ones apply to you more than others. Above all the most important thing to understand is that spending your days sitting around will not help you move better. Empower yourself!
1. Understand your body and health condition
Before starting to exercise it is important to kick the tires. Talk to your doctor to get cleared for exercise. Also, ask him or her to review your medications. Talk to your doctor about how to address your chronic conditions (i.e. diabetes) and how exercise and what type of exercise is best for you.
2. Start of with activities you enjoy
Start with what you like doing. At the end of the day, the most valuable exercise that anybody does is the exercise that they do on a regular basis. Build that habit. If you enjoy going for walks, hiking, swimming etc. – start with that.
3. Take things slow
Build upon what you are already doing after you establish a foundation. It has been a couple of months and you are in a good rhythm walking once a week. Now it is time to build upon this. Add another day or two. Don’t immediately increase the mileage each day or whatever you are doing. Wait until this is getting easier to add another layer – add more mileage, time or increase the pace.
4. You can always exercise to your needs
Ask qualified professionals for advice. You want to move better on your own. That is understandable. However, you may need some advice to steer you in the right direction. Things like proper form when in the gym or even when jogging can help you avoid the risk of injury and improve your progress. Make sure that whomever you speak with has experience with your age group and is giving you personalized attention. Even if you don’t live in an area where you have access to such people reach out the AARP or Council on Aging branch that can help connect you with someone.
5. Don’t forget your meals are important too
Be mindful of what you are eating. Between chronic conditions and long bouts of inactivity a poor diet does not do you any favors either. Be attentive to what you should not eat that can affect any conditions that you have. Consult a qualified professional about things like how much protein you should be eating or what is best to avoid with your chronic condition. Also – stay hydrated!!
6. Make exercising your life work
Train for life. Work on things like balance, rotational exercises or leg strength. You want to be able to move better in your everyday life at the least. Being able to be independent, get up, pick things up off the ground or climb stairs is important. On that note using some form of weight or resistance is helpful. This weight could be in the form of a dumbbell or a resistance band.
7. Make new friends while exercising
Join a group class. This is a way not only to have an instructor lead you on how to correctly do an exercise but also at a cheaper rate than a personal training session. Also, being a part of an exercise community can be a fun and supportive environment. Knowing your fellow class members and keeping each other honest can be a great way to hold each other and yourself accountable.
8. You can “always” exercise
Remember that what you do when you are not exercising is also important. If you can take the stairs then skip the elevator. Park further away from the store so you have to walk. Pick up gardening or have some sort of outdoor project that you can volunteer at.
9. Your muscles need time to rest and recover
Don’t forget to stretch. As we age it is important to lengthen the warmup and cool down periods. Read up on great modified stretching techniques that anyone can do sitting or standing. A plus to a group class is that the warm up and cool down is already part of the class!
10. Make exercising a pleasant hobby
Exercise has many forms – pick your own! If a large gym is not your thing, don’t let that stop you from moving. Look to see what is available in your community that you can join. Start with something that you enjoy or people that you like to work with!