Kent Pegg: Exercising Seniors

Los Alamos
We all know that regular exercise is one of the best ways to stay healthy and active. But is it ever too late to start?
And, if you’ve been a regular exerciser, do you need to scale back or eliminate exercise as you age?
The answer to both of these questions is a definite “No!” Both new exercisers and seasoned experts can benefit from regular exercise in their 60s, 70s, 80s, and beyond.
Whatever your age, if you haven’t been exercising, now is the best time to begin.
Today, many people are living well into their nineties. This can be either good news or bad news depending on their level of health and fitness. Think about the benefits of exercise: increased longevity, reduced risk of disease, increased bone strength, stronger muscles and joints, and fewer everyday injuries.
And this list could go on and on.
The first thing to do when beginning an exercise program is to check with your physician if you have any health concerns. When doing so make sure to get specific recommendations for exercises that you should or should not do and inquire about any limitations to your exercise program.
Your program should contain exercises that will help you develop in three ways: increase your flexibility, enhance your cardiovascular endurance, and increase your strength.
Flexibility training involves various stretching exercises. Stretching does not have to be included only on days when you are performing aerobic or strength training activities. Stretching can be just as beneficial on other days.
To increase your flexibility and mobility consider taking a stretching class. Trained instructors can facilitate significant increases in flexibility during these classes.
Additionally, a class provides a group environment where you can get the support of the other members of the class. Remember to start slow and gradually increase your flexibility over a period of time.
To enhance your cardiovascular endurance and control your weight, you’ll need to exercise in a way that increases your heart rate. Start with no-impact or low-impact activities like riding a recumbent bike, walking on a treadmill, using an elliptical trainer or taking a low impact cardio class.
Again, the advantage of taking a class is knowing that you have fitness center staff readily available for advice.
Remember that aerobic activity should be monitored closely especially if you have a history of a heart disorder. Begin slowly and gradually work your way up to thirty minutes of activity several times per week. You’ll notice that it won’t take long to increase both the rate of exercise and the duration of exercise.
Strength training is extremely important to incorporate into your fitness program. As a person ages, muscles begin to shrink which can result in debilitating injuries.
Strength training includes performing exercises with the use of weight machines or hand weights.
One of the most difficult things for someone just starting out is properly designing a strengthening program that will help them increase muscle mass while minimizing the risk of injury.
If you’re just beginning your exercise program, begin by working out in a weight training class or on circuit training equipment available in most gyms. Also consider meeting with a fitness professional to make sure your workout program is right for you and your desired goals.
Work out with weights several times per week to increase your muscle strength and associated joint strength. You’ll be surprised how fast you improve and how
noticeable the results. You’ll have more endurance, less pain, and you’ll be able to handle daily tasks easier than ever.
The bottom line is that there is no better time to exercise than now.
So whether you’re new to exercise or have been exercising all your life, what’s important is that fitness is a part of your life today. The health and lifestyle benefits will be yours for years to come.
Kent Pegg is a certified personal trainer and the owner of the Los Alamos Fitness Center. Direct questions about the information in this column to Pegg at 505.662.5232.