Skipping Your Exercise? What’s Your Excuse?
An ever-growing body of research shows that staying physically active is the top ingredient in healthy aging. Keeping fit when we’re younger builds a solid base for health in our later years—but study after study also shows that it’s never too late to add more movement to our days. For people of any age and with practically any health condition, exercise can improve physical, cognitive and emotional well-being.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that exercise:
- Reduces the risk of premature death.
- Delays or prevents many chronic conditions, such as heart disease, arthritis and diabetes, as well as some cancers.
- Reduces the risk of falls and fall injury.
- Delays the onset and progression of dementia.
- Reduces depression, and improves overall mental health.
And yet, for many of us, it’s challenging to make the effort to get up and get moving. We might be quick to make excuses—so we need to be quicker to counter those excuses. If any of these justifications are familiar to you, read on!
Excuse #1: I don’t have time for exercise. The day goes by, and suddenly it’s bedtime—and we haven’t done our workout. Even after retirement, we might find ourselves putting off exercise in favor of other things that might seem more important.
Solution: According to a study from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, many seniors today spend more time on mental pursuits, such as surfing the web, reading, or working puzzles, which has resulted in higher average cognitive tests for older adults. But those same activities are a reason that today’s older adults are less physically fit than previous generations. Remind yourself that physical exercise is just as important as using your brain, and get it on your schedule.
Excuse #2: I get bored. A survey of older adults conducted by AARP found that the top reason seniors give for living a sedentary lifestyle is: “I really do not enjoy exercise.”
Solution: If your current exercise options aren’t motivating, try dancing or an exercise class with music you like; go for a walk at a new, interesting place; get a pedometer or similar device and challenge yourself to add more steps each week; find an exercise buddy; or set up your treadmill in front of the TV for watching a favorite program, rather than parking in your recliner chair.
Excuse #3: I’ve never exercised and I don’t know what to do. If you’ve never taken part in a formal exercise program, it might seem daunting!
Solution: If you live in a senior living community, check out options there. You can get instructions and guidance as you begin. Recognizing the value of exercise for health, and for the financial health of our healthcare system, more senior centers, parks and recreation departments and gyms now offer senior exercise programs. Medicare Advantage plans may offer a gym membership. Ask your doctor for a “prescription” for an exercise program that’s right for you.
Excuse #4: I’m afraid of falling. A fall can change a senior’s life, leading to short-term or lifelong disability. The CDC reports that falls cause almost 30,000 deaths each year in the U.S.
Solution: While it’s smart to be cautious about falls, the worst way to avoid falls is to avoid exercise! Physical activity actually lowers the risk of falling by improving our balance, muscle strength and flexibility. Talk to your doctor about a fall-protecting exercise program of activities that are safe for you.
Excuse #5: I have a disability. For seniors living with conditions such as arthritis, osteoporosis, visual impairment, the effects of a stroke, or memory loss, getting enough exercise can be more challenging.
Solution: Almost everyone can benefit from regular physical activity. Talk to your doctor or a rehabilitation specialist (such as a physical or occupational therapist) about an exercise program that’s tailored for your strengths and challenges. Adaptive exercise programs can help people with chronic conditions reap the benefits of exercise, despite physical or cognitive limitations.
For most older adults, a good exercise program will include:
- endurance activities, also called aerobic exercise, to improve fitness of heart and lungs.
- strength-building exercises, such as using weights or resistance bands.
- balance exercises, such as tai chi, special types of walking, or standing on one foot.
- stretching activities, to preserve flexibility and reduce the risk of injury.
The information in this blog post is not intended to take the place of your health care provider’s advice. Before beginning a fitness program, talk to your doctor.