“The only reason that I would take up jogging is so that I could hear heavy breathing again.”
Editor’s note: Thanks to Dan J for making this suggestion about a fitness article: “Fitness…particularly since other apps or websites are geared towards younger folks. How about featuring a few tips here and there from fitness folks who may hold classes at some of these retirement places?” Leigh Pujado has been kind enough to help us carry out this suggestion, sharing the valuable insight she has gained as a long time personal trainer at WeBeFit.com.
By Leigh Pujado
April 29, 2019 — You know you are supposed to exercise. Practically everyone in your life, from your doctor, to your spouse, your kids, to your annoyingly fit at 70, tennis playing neighbor has consistently reminded you of the importance of getting in shape. So why is it that only 35% of you Baby Boomers are working out regularly?*
In the fitness business, the most common excuse we hear for not exercising regularly is “not having enough time.” Well, Retirees, you all can’t use that excuse anymore! Even so, there are many reasons older adults are apprehensive when it comes to starting an exercise program. It can be daunting, even scary or dangerous, especially if you have not formally worked out or played a sport in the past. But if you are ready to take the plunge and commit to an exercise regime, (or if you are just thinking about it,) here are some things to consider that just might get you off the sofa and into the gym.
–Everyone needs to move. EVERYONE! As the Godfather of Exercise, Jack La Lane said, “People don’t die of old age, they die of inactivity.” Like it or not, as we get older, we all experience “Sarcopenia,” the natural aging process in which after age 50, we begin to lose a significant amount of muscle mass, about 10% each decade to be exact. Exercise, most specifically, strength training, is the way to combat the wasting of our muscles as well as to avoid becoming weaker or frail. No matter your age, your physical ability or limitations, you should be moving your body everyday.
–Gather lots of information about the types of exercise available in your community. Ask the healthiest of your peers what they do for exercise and where they go to do it. There are so many different options, and not every type of exercise is right for every individual. Be open to trying a new sport, like tennis or cycling or swimming, or an exercise class, or even yoga. Find what you like and what exercise environment feels like a good fit. Check out the websites of local gyms, YMCA’s, studios, and fitness professionals to see what they offer. Call to inquire about getting a consultation on their services. If you live in an active adult or 55+ community the chances are great that there is a continuing stream of different exercise programs and activities to keep you fit. Check them out, and trust your gut that the people running them know what they are doing and will keep you safe. Sometimes a private lesson is the best way to ease into a program.
–Talk to your physician about beginning an exercise program. It is paramount that you see the doctor regularly to have check ups and blood work done, to rule out any conditions that will effect how you exercise. Your doctor may have suggestions of specific things he or she would like you to do or even exercises you should avoid. No one wants to find out they have a heart condition while on the treadmill!
– If you decide to work with a trainer or a fitness instructor, let that person know any health conditions or concerns you have. He or she may be able to make modifications for you as needed, plan stuff that is best suited to you, and keep you safe. No fitness professional wants to be surprised by your pre-existing health condition by finding out about it from the EMT’s they called when you passed out in the squat rack.
–Look for a fitness professional or facility that specializes in exercise for older adults. A common misconception is that gyms are all geared toward twenty-something meatheads and hot, young gym bunnies. Some are, but not all. You don’t buy your clothes from Forever Twenty-One, there are no Ariana Grande songs in your music collection, you don’t know who Liam Hemsworth is and frankly you don’t care.** As such, you shouldn’t have to work out with a bunch of kids and their terrible music and annoyingly skimpy clothes. Besides, the kids don’t have any money, so the places frequented by middle age and older adults tend to be nicer facilities.
–Consider hiring a professional trainer. You don’t have to wander aimlessly around a gym, wondering what exercises to do or how to work the machines. For the right amount of money, you can hire a qualified professional to guide you and build appropriate exercise plans. Many trainers (like moi) specialize in the needs of older adults and the nature of both injury and orthopedic issues. In fairness, I’d like to give you two warnings. One, good trainers are not cheap, and you should always check their credentials and references. A thorough consultation with a reputable trainer should allow you the opportunity to vet whether or not a trainer is right for you. Two, many gym rat, fitness enthusiast, meatheads call themselves “Trainers” yet have no skills at working with an individual’s needs or working with older adults. Again, a thorough consultation should occur to weed out the incompetent. Try this link for how to interview a trainer:
–For the tech-literate, fitness apps can really help keep you on track. Some are even geared toward older adults. There are apps for walking programs, ready made exercise routines and calorie counting. If you have a an Apple Watch it has great ways to monitor different kinds of workouts like biking, walking, swimming, etc. Check out this Silver Sneakers link for a list of the latest apps that may be appropriate for you:
–Expect discomfort. There’s no way to sugar coat it: Exercise is work. It is literally an exertion of oneself. It’s called “working out” not “hanging out,” and it requires effort, and at times, discomfort. This is not to say that you should ever exercise to such an extreme that you experience severe pain or incapacitation. I like to tell my clients that after a good work out, they should feel fatigued, and perhaps a little sore, but they should still be able to walk and use a toilet. If you feel nothing, you didn’t work hard enough. If you can’t sit on the can the next day, you over did it.
–You are what you eat. Yeah, yeah, yeah, you don’t want to hear another tirade about eating healthy. I know. But I don’t care. If you are still eating garbage at your age, you should expect to feel like crap. There’s no way around this. There is no magic diet, no magic pill, no magic regime other than good, old fashioned, healthy living, to make you feel good. Eat real foods, lots of plants, smaller amounts of meat and dairy, healthy, high fiber carbs. Consume everything, including alcohol, in reasonable portions. No amount of exercise can counteract a lifestyle of copious amounts of alcohol and a steady stream of fast food.
*Statistic information from JAMA 2014
**The author of this column had to Google where the kids are buying their clothes these days, who the top 40 music artists are, and which modern actors are considered “heart throbs.”
Leigh Pujado has been forcing people to exercise in exchange for money for more than two decades. She is a certified personal trainer and writer at WeBeFit.com
Comments? What type of exercise programs work for you? Tell us about your approach to exercise and how you got and stay motivated. Please share your comments and experiences below.