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BellaOnline's Geriatrics Editor

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Exercising Safely as We Age


We’ve all heard the expression “no pain, no gain” but painful symptoms while we are exercising are not the norm. If we have pain our body is telling us that we are doing something too vigorously and to stop. Many studies have been conducted regarding exercise especially for older adults, and there are no reasons why we can’t exercise safely and accomplish our goals.

What are the signs that represent red flags?

We should be able to talk while we exercise and our heart rate should increase so we are breathing a little harder than the norm. Any kind of chest pain is a sign that we should stop immediately.

If we have arthritis we may have joint pain. If that joint doesn’t loosen up during exercise, then we should have a doctor take a look.

Feeling faint is another signal that we are pushing it, either because we are dehydrated or we are taking medication, perhaps for blood pressure that has a negative effect on our body. It could also mean that we have a heart or lung problem; so again, stopping that exercise and telling our physician what’s happening is the best approach.

Shortness of breath is also a warning signal.

How can we safely pursue exercise?

Brisk walking is the best exercise for us and using small weights can also be advantageous to tone up muscles. There are also numerous exercises we can do while sitting in a chair – they even can be done while watching TV once we get a routine in place. We also have to remember that no matter what kind of exercise we decide to do, we need to start with stretching exercises to warm up.

Studies show that any kind of exercise, including stretching, will help us prevent falls, a real and deadly nemesis as we age. For most of us, there is no excuse for not exercising but so many of us find it difficult to get started even though we know it is good for us. How to do that? There are several approaches so we need to pick one that works for us:

•Attend classes at the senior center; your local center usually sponsors yoga, chair exercises, and more;

•Take a couples ballroom dance class;

•Get out in the garden with a chair and weed and tend the flowers. Be careful that you don’t trip on garden tools, hoses, etc.;

•Develop your own exercise plan to be done at home: that could include watching the news while doing some light weight lifting; doing chair exercises; moving around the room to music (your favorite kind of tunes); and walking around the local mall for a half hour a few times a week.

The buddy system also works well. Do you have a friend that enjoys exercising? Plan some “dates” with him or her to get outside and walk, take a class, or help each other garden so you are moving around more often and more vigorously.

I know how hard it is. I joined the gym for one of the yearly specials two months ago and have yet to go there. Aaaargh. I do use small weights at home but I need to do much more! Help!


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Content copyright © 2015 by Patricia Villani, MPA, PhD. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Patricia Villani, MPA, PhD. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Patricia Villani, MPA, PhD for details.

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