The New Year is a time for reflection on the past year and planning for the next. Age doesn’t preclude an individual from dreaming about ways to better themselves during the upcoming 365 days.
One of the top new year resolutions – across all demographics – is to exercise more or to get in better shape. The exciting news for seniors is that there is an ever-growing number of resources to help you achieve this goal.
So, how do you avoid being one of the majority that has quit their resolution by mid-February?
- Do something you enjoy: You don’t have to use the treadmill to get results. If that doesn’t excite you, try the elliptical or a low impact step class.
- Learn something new: There are many non-traditional types of exercise to explore. Try Tai Chi, a barre class or find a water aerobics program. It’s great to have options for those days when your first choice can’t happen, like if it’s raining or you have an appointment during your regular class time.
- Have a goal: The countdown clock to New Year’s Day is something to focus on and prepare for. Once that passes you need to keep goals within reach. Have immediate, intermediate and long-range goals for best results.
- Have a “hook”: If your resolution is walking each day, tie your daily session into another activity. For instance, tell yourself you will get the mail AFTER you walk around the block.
- Celebrate the accomplishments (and don’t sweat the setbacks): Celebrate small wins as often as possible. Losing 10 pounds by next month is the overall goal but doing exercise four times a week is a great accomplishment to help you get there. Didn’t meet your goal this week? Don’t give up. Getting and staying in shape is a marathon, not a sprint.
- Exercise with friends: Most everything is more fun with others, plus with accountability partners, you’re less likely to skip a session. For seniors, the opportunity to meet and exercise in a community is available at thousands of gyms nationwide. Keep reading!!
Senior Fitness Programs
Individuals that are eligible for Medicare have several low or no-cost options for joining a fitness center. These options are not available through the Medicare program itself, but rather through supplemental insurance programs, including many Medicare Advantage plans. Since these benefits are often included in plans, it makes sense to check with your provider to see what options are available.
Silver Sneakers is one of the most well-known exercise programs for seniors. Available in more than 15,000 fitness centers, an eligible member can use a facility at no additional charge. Once signed up with the center of your choice, a Silver Sneakers member swipes the membership card each time they visit the facility. The fitness center is then paid directly by the Silver Sneakers program. Some locations also offer Silver Sneakers certified fitness classes at no additional charge. Any other training programs, such as a personal trainer or sauna for example, are charged directly to the client at the standard rate of the facility.
New to Silver Sneakers is the Flex program, which offers programming from certified professionals in non-gym environments. This might include the park for yoga or boot camp at a local community center. Silver Sneakers also offers an app for your phone. Through this app you can track your exercise, plan your workout schedule, watch videos to ensure you are doing exercises properly, track your progress and more.
Silver&Fit operates in a similar manner to Silver Sneakers. You enroll at a participating location at no cost. Each time you visit the gym you record your attendance through the gym’s established system. There is not an independent tracking system through Silver&Fit itself. Some locations also have certified classes that you can participate in at no additional fee.
One of the options in this program that makes it stand apart is the option to exercise at home. If you do not want to join a fitness center, the Silver&Fit program offers a Home Fitness program with your choice of up to 2 home fitness kits per benefit year. Once enrolled, you may view Healthy Aging educational resources online or request that they be mailed. The Silver&Fit website offers an extensive resource library with information on exercising, nutrition and other health-related topics.
The Silver&Fit technology not only allows you to download an app to track exercise, but it can also sync with several wearable devices. Tracking your exercise through your device allows you to earn points through their rewards program. Reward benefits vary by the health care provider.
Individual insurance plans are also offering different options for exercise benefits that do not utilize a formal program. The type of benefit varies widely from provider to provider. For instance, a carrier may give each participant a monthly allowance that is applied to the cost of a gym membership. Or a provider may have a location where they have negotiated preferred rates for members. It is imperative that questions are asked upfront about what benefits are provided so that you do not have any out-of-pocket surprises.
There is no escaping technology today. The good news is that you shouldn’t always want to! There are many great ways to incorporate technology into your exercise routine to help keep you informed, on track and see your results.
Do a quick search in your phone’s app store and you’ll find hundreds, possibly thousands, of options. The few mentioned here are to give you a quick sample of the type of resources available. While the number of options can seem overwhelming, the number of choices does allow you to find the one that best fits your needs.
Fitness Builder – This is like having a personal trainer in your hand. The app has 200 workouts to choose from, based on your goals and fitness level. The app also includes videos to explain moves, a timer and, of course, tracking and record-keeping capability.
My Fitness Pal – Studies have found that people who exercise regularly and track their calorie consumption tend to lose more weight and keep it off longer than those who exercise just as much but don’t record what they eat. This app offers an easy-to-use food diary and activity log and it can sync with tools like the Withings Wi-Fi Body Scale or the Fitbit Aris Smart Scale.
Gym Goal – Trainers and physiologists know that adding weights and resistance exercises to your workouts not only builds strength and muscle mass but also helps burn calories and helps bone strength. Gym Goal walks you through the keys to proper weight-training form and provides more than 200 workouts you can modify based on goals and capabilities.
Fitness trackers are stand-alone devices that monitor everything from calories burned to heartrate, depending on the sophistication of the device. Common trackers include Fitbit and Garmin, but there are many brands, including ones offered from different cellphone makers like Apple and Samsung.
Tips for Exercising as You Age
Here are a few tips to help you make the most of your workouts, stay safe in the process and stick with your plan to reach your goals.
- Always talk with your doctor before beginning an exercise routine. Your primary care doctor knows your history and will be able to make suggestions on types of exercises that may benefit you the most, or ones that many exacerbate negative issues you are currently treating (i.e. a sore knee, accelerated heartbeat or a weak back).
- Start slowly. The surest way to not return to your exercise routine is to be too sore from a previous work out! There is no reason to push yourself too hard at the beginning – you’re in this for the long haul. For the first week or two, gauge your workout. If after a day or two you feel great at that introductory speed on the stationary bike, increase by a level. Are you able to do 15 repetitions of the bicep curl with ease? Increase the weight slightly and drop your reps to 8. Exercising to your best potential requires that you listen to your body.
- Warm-up and cool down. As we age, our muscles and joints are more temperamental (but we probably didn’t have to tell you that!). A proper warm-up allows the blood to reach your muscles, preparing them for exercise, as well as allowing your heart to gradually increase to meet the demands of the exercise. A cool-down is equally important to help gradually lower your heartrate as well as starting the process of eliminating lactic acid to reduce soreness. Additionally, adding stretching during your cool-down helps you take advantage of added flexibility of warmer muscles.
You may also want to consider a fall monitor or emergency response device to give you more peace of mind should you find yourself in distress during a workout. Assisted Living Services’ sister company provides many options including the Belle Mobile Emergency Response System.
Exercising is one of the best things you can do for your long-term health and we don’t want there to be any barriers. Start this new year off with a determination to incorporate activity into your daily life. Set goals for yourself and see the payoff!