Older adults are no different than younger individuals when starting an exercise program; however, a few things are even more essential to consider.
- Consult your physician prior to starting. Inquire about any restrictions.
- If working with a professional, make sure they understand your full health history, especially any heart issues or joint issues.
- Start slowly with intensity and shorter durations. Many people give up if there is pain or soreness. It is more important to exercise 2-3 times a week to build up endurance and strength than to work out too intensely, get sore and skip for two (2) weeks.
- Focus on one goal that you want to accomplish. Work on the exercises necessary to allow that to happen. Then set the next goal.
- Understand exercise is a process. Changes in mobility or balance will not be noticed for a month or two.
- Vary the exercises. This will help with boredom and working on only one exercise will only improve one task.
In any aspect of life, goals are only accomplished when we challenge ourselves. Exercise is no different. The ongoing stressors to the body when exercising are what lead to improvements in strength and balance. Therefore, exercises completed six months ago should be easier than ones that are being started at the present time. Every exercise should not be difficult during a workout, but EFFORT SHOULD BE FELT during each individual exercise.
This ideology is what makes this job so much fun and leads to answering the question about how hard an older adult can work out. Tandem Strength & Balance therapists challenge every client every day, but it is not the same with each person. The intensity and severity of the exercise is reliant on the older adult’s ability level, endurance, goals and desire. Therapists often need to be very creative in the ways they challenge people. Typically, the difficulty of the exercise is not acknowledged until it is completed. The client needs to trust their body and also understand that they will not be pushed beyond their limits. Having a longer-term relationship with the clients makes this much easier. As we get older, it takes longer to build up the intensity of a work-out, but that does not mean an older adult can’t be challenged. The intensity of an exercise program for a person who is only able to stand with a walker, is completely different than someone who is 90 years old competing in triathlons.
The most important fact is that everyone can improve regardless of their age or diagnosis.