Myths About Exercise and Older Adults

by Fit After Fifty
A girl walking on a trail during sunset

Many older adults let certain assumptions keep them from exercising. Dispelling these myths about exercise and older adults is key to getting seniors back on their feet and enjoying the numerous benefits of exercise.

I didn’t exercise when I was younger, so it’s too late to start now.

It’s never too late to start reaping the benefits of exercise. Studies have shown that beginning exercise as an older adult can increase muscle strength, reduce risks of health issues such as diabetes, and improve symptoms.

Exercising is pointless at my age — I’m going to decline no matter what.

Aging and decline don’t have to go hand-in-hand. In fact, many symptoms people associate with aging — such as loss of muscle and balance — are actually due to inactivity. Exercise can halt decline of both physical and mental health, helping you to stay strong and independent, improving memory, and decreasing your chances of developing dementia.

Exercise isn’t safe for people my age — I could fall and hurt myself.

Those who exercise regularly are actually less likely to fall, as exercise increases agility, balance, and muscle and bone strength. Tai chi and similar exercises can be particularly effective at improving balance.

I need my doctor’s approval to exercise.

You only need to check with your doctor if you haven’t had a checkup in a long time, have health issues, or are experiencing symptoms you can’t explain. If this isn’t the case, get exercising! Just be careful and don’t push yourself too hard.

I could have a heart attack if I exercise.

Although having a heart attack while exercising is possible, the risk is small. The real danger lies in being inactive: Inactivity increases your risk of heart diseases, including coronary artery disease and heart attack. Exercise regularly to lower your blood pressure and minimize these risks.

I shouldn’t exercise because I’m sick.

Exercise is often a better remedy than the many medications that people take daily. It can be especially effective for people with chronic health issues, such as heart disease, arthritis, or diabetes. Just check with your doctor first to be safe.

Exercise will cause me joint pain.

Those who have chronic pain from arthritis are often afraid that exercise will hurt their joints. However, studies have shown that exercise alleviates chronic pain and improves joint function.

I can’t afford to start exercising.

Exercising can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. Skip the expensive gym memberships; instead, see if your local senior center offers any free classes. Insurance may cover some sessions with an occupational therapist or physical trainer for those who have a health problem. Working out at home can be affordable, too. You have lots of low-cost home exercise equipment to choose from, and can also use containers — soup cans, milk jugs, or whatever else you have lying around — filled with sand for weight lifting. Walking, jogging, and hiking are free as well.

I’m too old to go to the gym.

Most gyms are accepting of all ages. However, if you feel uncomfortable exercising in environments dominated by a younger population, try to find fitness centers in your area that offer programs tailored to seniors. Going to the gym in the afternoon can also help you avoid the rush of people who exercise before and after work.

I’m too weak to exercise.

The optimal exercise program will meet you wherever you are. If you’re recovering from surgery or a sickness and have a hard time being on your feet for long, walking your dog three times a day may be your starting point. The more you do, the more your strength will improve.

I can’t exercise because I’m disabled.

Having a disability can keep you from performing some exercises, but certainly not all. Those who use walkers or wheelchairs and even those who are bedridden have a number of exercises and modified activities to choose from. Speak to your doctor or physical therapist about how you can best adapt exercises to work with your lifestyle.

Exercise is boring.

If exercise is boring for you, then you’re not choosing the right activities. Gardening, dancing, and chasing after your grandchildren all count as physical activity. Find something that you enjoy that gets your heart rate up, and then stick to it. That’s the best way to ensure that you’ll make physical activity a permanent part of your routine — and that you’ll have fun on a regular basis!

Image via Unsplash

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