Physical Activity Tips for Older Americans Month | West Suburban YMCA

Physical Activity Tips for Older Americans Month

May 13, 2021

May is Older Americans Month, and the West Suburban YMCA is encouraging aging adults to make their health a priority.  Regular physical activity is one of the most important things older adults can do for their health. It can help prevent or manage some of the health problems that come with age, such as osteoporosis, heart disease, and stroke.    

We know that many older adults have been staying home to stay healthy over the past year due to COVID-19. As more of the community gets vaccinated, now is a great time for older Americans to begin or restart a fitness routine.  While the CDC recommends that older adults get a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise per day, less than one out of three Americans 65 and older meet these guidelines. 

Louise Carbone, a longtime instructor of fitness classes for seniors including the Y’s Keeping Fit class, explains, “The older we get, our muscles tighten up and it takes much longer to loosen the elasticity and get the blood flow going.  You have to keep moving - any movement - whether it is walking, running, bicycling, weights, and stretching.  As we get older, we start to lose our confidence and the fear builds in you.  Your goal drops, so you need to keep that goal right in front of you.” 

Here are some tips to help you incorporate physical activity into your life at any age: 

1)  Try out different things to see what you enjoy.  Maybe it’s a walk around the neighborhood, maybe it’s an exercise bike, or maybe you like to take in-person exercise classes.  All of these can be adapted to your current ability, so give it a shot and figure out what works best for you!  If you like it, you’re more likely to stick with it.    

2) Grab a friend.  Exercising is always more fun with friends and you can hold each other accountable.  It also helps pass the time when you can chat and laugh with a buddy!  Socialization is also an important part of healthy aging.  Social interaction provides meaningful engagement, builds relationships, and enhances a sense of belonging and connection to the community. 

3) Get fit with a personal trainer.  Personal training is a great way to get one-on-one guidance with a fitness professional.  They can help you figure out what are the best workouts for you and help you increase your ability over time. 

4) Hop in the pool.  Swimming and water fitness classes such as the Y’s swimnastics class will get your heart pumping in a low impact way that is less stressful on your joints and muscles. Exercising in water requires you to support only 20% to 50% of your body weight, making exercises easier to perform. 

5)  Work exercise into other activities.  If you need to go to the supermarket or the pharmacy, do it by foot.  Sometimes it’s easier to get some exercise when you have a destination. The recommended 30 minutes of daily physical activity doesn’t need to be consecutive; try breaking it up into shorter periods of time while doing other activities. For example, stand on one foot while brushing your teeth to increase balance, or do squats while washing dishes to increase strength. 

Once you determine how you’d like to get your exercise, it’s much easier to make it happen.  It’s fun, it feels good, and it can help manage some of the effects of aging.  So, grab your sneakers and give it a go!