“Youth is the gift of nature, but age is a work of art.” Stanislaw Jerzy Lec

In South Africa, the number of persons over the age of 60 has grown quite significantly, from around 7,6% (2002) of the population to 9,1% in 2020. The country has also moved away from seeing large numbers of mortalities in younger age groups, due to TB and HIV/AIDS, to strokes and heart disease manifesting in the elderly demographic.

Why should you exercise?

The above statistics underscore the fact that exercise is important for older folks to help mitigate the effects of these conditions and the concomitant health risks. Yes, older folks do need to become more physically active. However, there are particular precautions that they need to take.

This article examines what a standard workout for seniors is like, why exercise is good for you and what the types of exercises are that you can participate in to maintain or improve your fitness levels and your overall health, as you grow older.

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Let’s Warm Up

By the time you’ve reached the half-century milestone, your joints and muscles would have taken quite a pounding already. You might also be at the point where cardio-vascular disease is developing, as well as arthritis and diabetes. You would, of necessity, have to incorporate flexibility and cardio in your exercise routines!

Should you warm up before exercising?
You should always warm up before moderate or intense exercise. (Source: ArtCoreStudios)

The right choice of exercises and sport is vital! Whether you start with light aerobics, tai Chi, Pilates of yoga, ensure that you first do a gentle warm-up. This is very definitely recommended if you’re going to do some cardio.

Warm Up Your Upper Body

While it won’t take longer than ten minutes, preparing your body for what it is about to encounter is all-important.

Start off by sitting on and chair. Holding your back straight, turn your head slowly to the right and to the left three times. Now, inhale while looking upwards and exhale as you look downwards. Repeat these three times.

Now, with your hands on your shoulders, rotate your shoulders ten times in one direction and then ten times in the opposite direction. Next, with your arms stretched out in front of you, palms facing upwards, flex your arms at the elbow. Do ten repeats.

Now, let’s warm up the obliques. Bend your body to the left and then to the right ten times, holding your hands outstretched towards the floor. Do ten twists next. At shoulder height, place one arm on top of the other, as when you’re about to cross arms.

To focus on your wrists, put your hands together and move them in a circle. Swivel your wrists ten times in one direction and then repeat in the opposite direction.

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Warm Up Your Lower Body

For these warm-ups, use a chair to support yourself! Warm up your ankles: Sit on the edge of a chair and roll the ball of a foot to the heel ten times. Repeat with the other foot. Stretch your legs out in front of you, while you sit fully on a chair. Rotate each ankle ten times in a direction and then, ten times in the opposite direction. Drop your legs and then, alternately, stretch out each leg in front of you. Keeping your legs bent, raise each one at the knee and return the foot to the floor. Repeat ten times. Starting with your legs together, move them apart and return them to the starting position, ten times.

Focus on Co-Ordination and Warm Up Your Heart

Still seated, raise your legs and wiggle them as you would when swimming, contracting your abs. To a count of ten, swing out your arms and return them to a position in front of your chest.

Open up your legs, moving them to the sides of the chair. Simultaneously, stretch out your arms in front of you and draw them back towards your chest. Repeat ten times.

As you warm up, focus on breathing correctly. Try to breathe as regularly and naturally as possible. Don’t hold your breath.

Work on balance, as it is important in reducing the risk of falling and can improve your mobility.

Easy Does It

Starting out, you have to be cautious! The saying less is more, provides a wonderful note of caution here! New-comers, to almost any activity, can be spurred on by feel-good hormones to want to do more, only to subsequently find out that they have over-extended themselves. It is important for over-50s to heed this warning, start up slowly and build up gradually. Remember: Rome wasn’t built in a day! Consistency and exercising regularly are key!

What kinds of exercises can seniors do?
Generally, you'll want to make sure that the exercises you do are low-impact as to not damage your joints. (Source: pasja1000)

Don’t forget that you have to work out the muscles in your back, shoulders, neck, knees, abs and hips, while you continue with cardio and exercises that will improve your balance and flexibility.

Initially, do a little bit of exercise every day, rather than doing a long session only once a week. Exercising regularly will produce the results you want and limit the risk of injury.

Between Sessions – Rest

Physical exercise does challenge the body in a number of ways and does a bit of damage under the skin. Rest, rehabilitation and recovery are, thus, vital elements of a smart exercise programme.

How often can seniors exercise?
It's usually a good idea to take a day off between sessions. (Source: Jibs-breizh)

Engaging in an exercise programme, takes into account several different elements, all of them fundamental to your being successful at the end of the day. They are the building blocks which will impact on your programme in either a positive or a negative way. Getting the balance right is all-important.

Hydrate adequately before, during and after each an exercise session. This will help to replenish any liquid and mineral salts lost through perspiration. Ensure that you get enough sleep, which plays a vital role in the healing the body. Your diet also has to contribute towards replacing the kind of nutrients that are typically used up during exercise. Build in periods of rest and rehabilitation to help you avoid burn-out and feeling sore.

It is normal to feel a bit sore. Pay attention to signals like this to take time out to recover. Recovery will take a bit longer than when you were 25. However, as long as you step things up gradually, your body will adjust and you will be able to incrementally ramp up the number of sessions you engage in as well as the intensity thereof.

On the days that you’re not exercising, don’t be physically immobile. You don’t want to lose any gains you’ve made or the momentum that you’ve built up.

  • Cycle or walk whenever you can.
  • Don’t spend too much time sitting. On a regular basis, get up and move about the house or in the office. Stretch often.
  • Do some or most of your own housework. Vacuuming, sweeping or mopping all contribute towards a much healthier lifestyle.
  • Skip the lift and hit the stairs.
  • Gardening is also a great form of exercise and relaxation.
  • Spend more time walking Fido.

The above activities demonstrate that you can remain active, without exercising per se. Adding walking to your everyday routine would contribute immensely towards your overall fitness. If you do start to follow a regular exercise programme, just ensure that you don’t overdo it.

Get a Coach to Help You

You have three choices:

  1. Attend group sessions for stretching, aerobics, aqua-gym, Pilates, Nordic walking, etc. There are many options. You will also be presented the opportunity to meet with other people who may also motivate you to stick to your chosen path to a new you.
  2. Follow an online fitness class. Once again, you’ll be spoiled for choice. You can spoil yourself to a free online fitness class and find many routines that are suitable for the over 50 age group. For workout and fitness videos, YouTube is a great site to visit. It is, of course, also advisable to speak to your doctor before starting on a new fitness programme. This is very important if you are following online fitness classes, because there will no-one to come to your aid if you were to injure yourself.
  3. Retain the services of a private coach. If you don’t particularly enjoy group sessions, engage the services of a personal trainer. He or she will guide you through a programme that was tailor-made for you. While they may have your physical condition in mind, it may be an excellent idea for him or her to get input from your physiotherapist or doctor about the best routine for you to follow.
Can seniors get fitness coaching?
There are personal trainers and fitness coaches out there who can help you with a fitness routine. (Source: SaraJobling)

Don’t forget: Superprof has quite a number of excellent coaches who are ready, willing and able to put you through your paces. You will be able to locate one close to you without much difficulty.

You now know quite a considerable amount about what it takes to be exercising beyond the age of 50. We do hope that you have now discovered why exercise is good for you and, if you’ve ever wondered why should you exercise, that you’ve found the answer here. Just be sure to take it easy starting out!

Again, if you have difficulty sticking to your fitness programme, consider enlisting the help of a Superprof personal trainer or fitness instructor. While each of the coaches will have a different emphasis, you should find one who is a good fit for you in terms of budget, lifestyle demands and fitness levels.

Also, keep in mind that many of the Superprof coaches offer the first session free of charge - a great opportunity for you to try out a couple before you decide on the best coach for you!

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Trevor

Career teacher turned writer. Passionate about family, running, and the great outdoors.