Starting to Exercise: Steps to Take After Years of Inactivity

Perhaps you found yourself here because now you are retired and have more time on your hands and you spent a few too many years on the career path without making time for good health and fitness practices.  Your family and doctor are all saying you need to make some changes. That time is now.

Are you hesitant to start this late in the game after years of relative inactivity? Many recent studies are showing that seniors who start exercising show improvements in all major physical areas and report an improved quality of life.  Not to mention that they are just having more fun!

Whatever the reason, we are glad you are here and we can help encourage you to a vibrant, healthy lifestyle. There are a few things to keep in mind to help you get a good start and not be sidelined with injuries.

Before you start First and foremost get a complete medical check up that includes blood pressure, cholesterol, joints and back evaluation if you have had pain in these areas. Your weight should be evaluated as well as a bone density scan if osteoporosis may be a concern, skin cancer screening, and a cardiac stress test. You and your doctor may not feel you need all of these, but this is a pretty comprehensive list.

If your doctor detects blood pressure or other heart issues, it may be helpful to get a heart rate monitor to help you to know how much you should or should not push yourself when first starting out.

Depending on what type of activities you plan to go for, make sure you have the right gear, especially shoes.  A poorly fitting shoe or one designed for running when you plan to play court sports can get you off to a painful start or worse, cause injuries.

Check out Silver Sneakers, the nation’s leading exercise program for active older adults. They offer access to more than 11,000 locations nationwide, guidance, encouragement and info to keep you exercising in the years to come.

The Sky is the limit! There are almost endless opportunities to choose from when deciding what to do to be more active.  You can join classes at a gym, join a hiking club, neighborhood walking groups or park and rec sports teams such as softball. Try out some new activities such as kayaking, stand up paddle board, and show shoeing.  Stop and think of the activities over the years that have caught your interest, but you have never tried.  Try one!  Or two, or ten!

Let’s get moving!  Now that you are cleared to go, keep the pressure off yourself and just get out and move.

Consider joining a gym for support and a source of certified instructors and classes to get you started. Many gyms offer senior discount rates as the aging population of boomers is rapidly growing. Personal trainers offer not only motivation, but are an excellent source for guidance in moves, safety, realistic goals.

Check into your local park and rec department for classes and activities that offer not only outlets for challenging yourself physically, but a community of people who are doing the same.

If you are not taking a class or joining a gym, start with some power walks at a pace that is a challenge for you, but won’t leave you in muscle pain and soreness for days after.

  • The American Heart Association recommends that inactive people gradually work up to exercising three to four times a week for 30-60 minutes at 50%-80 % of their maximal heart rate.
  • Increase your activity level gradually over the course of 6 weeks. 20% a week is a recommended.
  • Incorporate exercise into your daily life by taking the stairs instead of elevators, park in the farthest spot. Vacuum more often and do it vigorously! Shovel your own snow and mow your own lawn.
  • Learn good, basic stretching and practice daily whether you workout or not.

Regardless of what you choose, remind yourself that this has been a while.  It may take a bit for you and your body to get used to one another and challenging it to new and strange movements.  Be patient with yourself and remind yourself every day that you are making a difference.  Go for it!

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