How do I Start With Exercises For The Elderly And Seniors?
Hi, I'm Doug Schrift - otherwise known as "Your Senior Fitness Coach" - and I’ve spent years guiding the fitness of thousands of seniors as a Physical Therapist, even if they have never exercised before. Sign up below to my email list to receive my FREE 4 Week Senior Fitness Program.
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If you are looking for one of the best online resources on exercises for the elderly and seniors, you found it! Below you will find all the information you need to get started.
First Things First: Check With Your Doctor
Before starting with exercises for the elderly and seniors you should consult your doctor. Let him or her know you are going to begin exercising or increasing your activity level. This is especially true if you have any of the following:
- Chest pain or pain in your left arm and neck
- Any shortness of breath
- A heart condition
- Any bone or joint problems
- If you are currently taking blood pressure or cardiac medications
- Any unexplained dizziness or fainting
Regular physical activity can improve your quality of life in so many ways.
Doing something you love to do is a great way to stay motivated.
Over exerting yourself or participating in an exercise program you don’t really like will make you exhausted and very likely cause you to discontinue activity.
In order to gain the many benefits of regular exercise, including increased energy, weight loss, improved heart health and strong bones, you must like what you are doing.
If swimming feels great, dancing gets your excitement up, bicycling is refreshing, then by all means do what your enjoy!
In our exercise classes, my students really like strengthening and stretching.
When they miss a few sessions from time to time, they tell me that they can really feel the difference.
You won’t get anywhere without this next item
Athletes, from runners to weight-lifters, have used exercise logs and goal setting to achieve success.
By recording your progress toward your goals you will gain perspective and be able to answer the question I get most often…How do I know if I’m getting stronger?
Let’s say you want to be able to get out in the yard and garden for one hour. That is your short term goal. You decide to begin with a walking and weight lifting program.
- On your first day of exercise you can walk for 5 minutes at a brisk pace and lift a five pound weight 10 times before getting tired.
- You then continue to exercise and record what you are able to do at least weekly in your journal.
- At the end of 6 weeks you have increased your walking time to 20 minutes and lifting capacity to eight pounds 10 times.
Wow! Now you can answer the question yourself…
I AM getting stronger!
And ultimately one hour in the garden is easily accomplished.
( As long as the weather holds!)
Well, do I need any special equipment?
Setting up an exercises for the elderly and seniors program at home doesn’t require a lot of investment in equipment.
Unless you really have your heart set on that new all purpose gym from Sears!
More than likely though it will be in your garage serving as a clothes hanger in a few short months.
All you really need is a sturdy armless dining room or kitchen chair and a few weights.
Make sure you have athletic type shoes that offer good support such as walking or running shoes.
Your clothing should also be comfortable and loose fitting. Find a sturdy kitchen chair to hold on to for balance.
You can use a water bottle or can of soup to lift if you don’t have weights.
If you can afford to purchase small hand weights, try picking up a 2 pound, 3 pound, 5 pound and 8 pound weight.
These will likely serve the needs of most older adult exercisers.
Oh no! The dreaded schedule thing!
How do ants make an ant hill so tall?
They consistently add one grain of sand at a time.
It’s the little bit you do every day that will over time increase your strength and endurance.
To be consistent requires taking a good look at your day and week.
What days will I most likely be able to fit in exercise? What time of day would be best?
The longer you are faithful to the schedule the easier it will be to stick to the exercises for the elderly and seniors program.
I haven’t exercised in years. How hard should I exercise?
Strength exercises are vital to maintain your ability to function independently in your home.
If you are only using weights for a strengthening workout, start with 1 to 2 pounds for women, and 3 to 5 pound weights for men.
Perform 8 to 12 repetitions (Reps).
Rest 1 minute and perform another (set) of these exercises.
You should not have any pain with these exercises.
When you can comfortably perform more than 15 to 20 repetitions, you should consider increasing your weight by a pound or two.
Strengthen a minimum of twice a week.
3 to 5 times per week is optimal to maintain a strong body that withstands the rigors of daily life as we grow older.
I am so stiff and tight. What do I need to know about stretching?
Flexibility exercises allow you to more easily move and reach when doing your daily tasks around the home.
Select a stretch to perform for the upper or lower body.
Hold the stretch for 30 seconds.
Then repeat the stretch 2 to 3 more times.
You should not feel any pain.
Generally stretches should feel good.
Only hold your neck stretches for 5 seconds if you feel any dizziness.
Stretch a minimum of twice a week.
To increase your flexibility, try stretching at leas 5 days per week.
Why not, it feels great!
Finding your correct training range for endurance exercises for the elderly
Endurance exercises for the elderly include brisk walking, stationary bike riding, running, low impact aerobics, swimming, water aerobics, cycling or any exercise that makes you breathe faster and your heart to speed up.
Endurance exercises for the elderly and seniors or activities should be performed at least 2 times per week.
For optimal improvement in your heart and lungs and muscles, try 3 to 5 times per week.
Think of how much easier it will be to walk, grocery shop and play with your grandchildren!
Your workout should be intense enough to make your heart beat faster and your breathing to increase but not so high as to over stress your system.
This is your training zone. Try to work out in this range to get the most benefit out of your endurance exercie.
Below you will find three good ways of monitoring your intensity level for your endurance activities and finding your training zone. Pick one that will work for you and your situation.
Method 1: Maximum Heart rate
This method is the most precise when finding your training zone for your endurance exercises, but can be the hardest to learn.
Take a breath… and see if you can follow along…
A good range for the typical senior exerciser is between 65% to 80% of your maximum heart rate, which is 220 minus your age.
If you have been inactive for a while or have limiting health problems, keep your heart rate between 50% and 75% of your maximum.
A healthy 75 year old man with a maximum heart rate of 145
needs to exercise between 16 and 21 beats
when counting for 10 seconds.
Find your age on the chart below, and follow to get your heart rate range for a 10 second count.
Take your pulse at approximately 5 minutes into the exercises for the elderly.
Take your pulse again at approximately 10 minutes into your endurance exercise or after the hardest part.
Take your pulse just after your cool-down.
To find your pulse on your wrist: Use the pads of your two fingers tips.
Place your finger tips just below the wrist creases at the base of the thumb.
Press lightly until you feel a pulse
(which is the blood pulsing under your fingers).
If necessary, move fingers around until you feel the pulse.
Review the 10 second counts so that you don’t have to do math in your head while exercising.
Slow down for the pulse count but keep your legs moving.
It is usually better to take your pulse at your wrist (radial artery) instead of your neck ( carotid artery).
It is possible to press too hard on the carotid artery which could cause slowing of the pulse.
I know this sounds complicated…..
But once you find how many beats per 10 seconds you need to have…. you are done!
Method 2: Rate of Perceived Exertion:
Don’t like the previous heart rate method?
Want an easier way to tell how hard you are working during your workout?
An easier method is to just rate your feeling of how hard you are working on the 0 to 10 scale.
This is called the “Borg Scale of Perceived Exertion.”
For most older adult exercisers, you can work in the “moderate” to “strong” range which is 4 – 5.
Give it a try.. it actually works quite well.
Method 3: Talk Test:
Still too complicated?
Want a VERY easy method to tell how hard you are working and make sure you are training correctly and safely in your training zone?
Try the talk test. It doesn’t get much simpler…
Basically, you should be able to speak in your normal voice and tone during your exercise session.
If you are out of breath and are unable to speak regularly, then you need to lower your intensity level by slowing down.
How’s that? Easy, eehh?
I am soooo busy. How long should I exercise?
You don’t need to work hard for a long time to gain benefit from exercises for the elderly.
30 minutes is a good daily goal.
You can exercise 10 minutes in the morning, 10 minutes after lunch and 10 minutes at night.
Don’t be in a hurry. Start slowly and gradually get used to exercising before increasing your exercise.
Begin with 10 -20 minutes of exercise to start.
Build up to 30 minutes if you are able. Most seniors can tolerate up to an hour or more of exercise.
There are only so many days in a week. How often do I need to exercise?
The National Institute of Health reports you can get health benefits with as little as 60 minutes of moderate exercise per week.
Try working out 2 days a week to start leaving a day or two between sessions.
Then increase a day or two as you get comfortable with exercising.
3 to 5 days a week is usually well tolerated. Don’t work the same muscle group on consecutive days.
It is a good idea to get personal instruction and a professionally designed program if you workout more than 5 days per week.
I am really weak right now. How much weight should I use for exercises for the elderly?
Arms: Try starting with 2 pounds.
This is usually tolerated by most seniors.
Women can safely train up to 5 pounds and men can safely train up to 8 pounds for the upper body.
Legs: Our legs are fairly heavy and may not require additional weight.
If you choose to use weights for the legs, use ankle weights.
Seniors can usually safely start with 1 pound ankle weights.
Work up to 3 pounds if you are tolerating the weight well and can do at least 15 to 20 repetitions comfortably.
I have diabetes and arthritis. What if I have a Medical Condition?
There are several special exercises for the elderly training considerations that must be kept in mind for these conditions. You can safely exercise with these conditions by following some simple suggestions and checking with your doctor.
- Exercise and Heart Disease
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
- Exercise and Obesity
- Elderly Diabetes
- Lower Back Pain Exercise
- Arthritis exercise
- Exercise for Osteoporosis
I have been inactive for so long. What are some general safety guidelines for exercise for the elderly?
- Remember that with age, sudden intense exercise may be a challenge for your heart.Try to prepare your muscles with a 10 minute warm-up before exercising.
- Also, quickly stopping during a workout may cause blood to pool in your legs, increasing the strain on your heart.That is why a 10 minute cool-down session is important.
- Monitor yourself for overexertion which is indicated by shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness or getting that shaky feeling.Make sure you listen to your body!
- Make sure you increase your activity level gradually.Only add 5 to 10% increase to any workout.
- Think “posture” as much as you can during your workout.Good posture will help protect your joints and prevent any unnecessary injuries.
- Practice good breathing. Never hold your breath.Try to breathe in through the nose and out the mouth.
- Train at the Goldie Locks intensity. Not too high and not too low. We want your heart to make improvements in its aerobic fitness which requires training at least in the 50% to 75% range of your maximum heart rate.
- Remember, exercises for the elderly training will only show benefits if it is done regularly with the correct duration, frequency, and intensity. “Practice makes….permanent!” So don’t practice sitting in your recliner!
I’m ready. Let’s get started!
Start with posture
First let’s learn correct posture before you start in order to help maximize the benefits of exercise. Watch our 6 posture videos for important exercises.
Review the proper techniques of breathing to improve your lung function and energy level. This video will show you how.
Increase your flexibility to allow full motion in your shoulders, hips, and legs with these exercises. Watch our 24 upper and lower body stretching videos for valuable instruction.
Build strength in the arms, legs and back to greatly enhance your functional independence with our 24 upper and lower body strengthening videos.
Gain endurance and improve your ability to walk and participate in energetic social activities like dancing and nature outings.
Develop better balance to increase your safety and help prevent falls. Watch the 12 best balance exercise videos now.
Make sure to download my FREE ebook below to begin your 4 week senior exercise program!