Exercise is one of the keys to having and keeping a healthy body. Regular exercise combined with a healthy diet reduces your risk of several diseases, like heart disease, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancers, like endometrial and lung cancer. Exercise can stabilize your mood, keep you at a healthy weight, strengthen your muscles and bones, and help prevent falls. If Mom starts an exercise routine now, it will help her live a longer, more active life. Here are some tips to help her begin her exercise journey.
1. Talk to Your Doctor
While most seniors are capable of starting and maintaining a new exercise routine, it is important that Mom discusses any major changes to her daily activity with her doctor first. She may especially want to discuss starting a new workout routine with her doctor if she is a smoker, or if she has or is at risk for having any of the following:
- Chronic diseases, such as heart disease or diabetes
- Recently experienced any chest pain or shortness of breath
- An irregular heartbeat
- Recently gained or lost significant amounts of weight
- An infection, blood clot, fever, persistent pain, joint swelling, or sores that won’t heal
- Eye conditions, like a detached retina, bleeding in the retina, or if she has had eye surgery recently
- Any heart conditions, such as weakening of the wall of the heart or critical aortic stenosis
- Had a hip replacement
When she meets with her doctor, the two of them can discuss what level of exercise is appropriate for her and her own personal needs. Her doctor can advise her on what exercises will benefit her specific needs and on what exercises she will need to avoid for safety reasons. Together, she and her doctor can come up with an exercise routine that is safe, fun, and beneficial.
2. Invest in Good Workout Gear
It might not seem important, but the proper workout attire can be the difference between a fun, beneficial workout and a workout that ends in a painful injury. Make sure Mom takes the time to try on and find the right clothes for her workouts.
Shoes are extremely important to any exercise routine. The wrong shoes can cause general body soreness and injuries. Don’t let Mom hastily buy just any pair of workout shoes. She should take her time and visit a shoe store in person, preferably one that specializes in the sale of workout shoes. Some good stores to consider are 1st Place Sports, Dick’s Sporting Goods, or Fleet Feet. She needs to try on shoes before she buys them. These types of stores have employees who can help Mom find the right size and fit. Workout shoes can run big or small, snug or wide, depending on the brand and on what exercises it is designed for. Make sure the shoes that she chooses fit comfortably and do not feel too heavy on her feet.
The type of clothing that she chooses for her workouts depends on what type of workout she is doing and on where she is working out. Inside or outside, she will want to wear loose-fitting clothing made from a soft, breathable fabric, like cotton. Clothes that are too tight and don’t allow air to pass through can cause uncomfortable rubbing and chafing. If Mom is going to be exercising outside, she needs to protect herself from the cold, or from overheating, and from harmful UV rays. In the winter, make sure that she wears long layers made of breathable fabrics that move with her body. When it is hot outside, she should wear light-colored clothing. If it is sunny outside, she should consider wearing a hat and sunglasses, and she always needs to wear sunscreen to protect her skin, no matter what the temperature is. Mom can find great workout clothes at any department store. Make sure she tries them on before she buys them. For more tips on finding workout clothes that are right for Mom, click here.
3. Start Slowly
It’s never safe to jump right into anything new, especially exercise. Let Mom take her time. She needs to visit her doctor, come up with a plan, figure out her schedule, gather the right clothes, and then start small. Mom may want to try working out just one or two days a week in the beginning. Be encouraging. Remind her that even the smallest amount of exercise added into her day is a step in the right direction. When she gets more comfortable with her new routine, she can add in one or two more workout days to her weekly routine. Before she knows it, she will be working out several days a week, and she will feel great.
If at any time, Mom starts to complain of soreness that won’t go away, tell her to call her doctor. She may need to change what she is doing, how she is doing it, or she may need to cut out a certain exercise entirely. Everyone’s body is different. Finding which exercises work for one person and which ones don’t is often a learning process. It’s ok for it to take some time for Mom to find the right exercise routine for her. Always stop exercising immediately if it is causing you pain.
4. Find a Workout Location
Once Mom has a workout routine, she is going to need somewhere to do her workouts. She has several options. Most importantly, she should choose a workout place in which she feels comfortable. If Mom wants to do her workouts in her living room, she most certainly can. If Mom is a walker or a jogger and she wants to be outside, she can find a walking trail nearby, go to a local park, or use an outdoor living space in the apartment complex or the assisted living community where she lives.
If it is possible and convenient for Mom to join a gym, help her find a gym nearby. Some gyms offer group classes that are geared toward seniors. Most gyms have personal fitness trainers on staff who can help her do her workouts safely and effectively. Keep in mind that the help of a personal fitness trainer usually costs extra, in addition to the monthly gym fee. For more information on senior fitness classes and on senior fitness trainers, visit the American Senior Fitness Association. If Mom prefers a smaller gym that isn’t going to cost her anything extra, many apartment complexes and assisted living communities have gyms on site that are available to residents.
5. Have Fun
Regular exercise is very important if Mom wants to live the longest, healthiest life she possibly can, but it shouldn’t feel like a chore. Exercise should be challenging but fun. If Mom is not excited about her new routine, or if she starts to get bored, here are a few things that might help you get her motivated:
- Become her new exercise partner. It is much easier to get through an exercise routine if you have a friend or family member doing the routine with you.
- Make sure she varies her routine. Doing the same exercise over and over again can become boring. As long as her doctor says it’s ok, encourage her to try something new.
- Rewards! Celebrate Mom’s exercise achievements with a special treat. Take her out to her favorite restaurant or to a new movie.
- Journaling. Encourage Mom to keep a journal of all of her exercise progress. Sometimes, being able to see a record of everything that you have accomplished is rewarding enough in itself.
No matter what, continue to encourage Mom. Making a big change in your life is not always easy. Starting an exercise routine is one of the best choices Mom can make for her health. Let her know that you are proud of her, and you support her. Go Team Mom!