Wellness and fitness expert Brittany Meador addresses frequently asked questions regarding getting and staying fit as a senior adult.
Why is it important for senior adults to stay fit?
It is so important for senior adults to stay fit because it helps with a host of health issues that the aging population faces. The right exercises will help strengthen bones and joints, which will help with arthritis, lower high blood pressure, and help with balance. Increasing balance is especially important, as we want to decrease the chances of falling as much as possible.
What factors do you consider when developing a fitness plan for a senior?
When developing fitness plans, it is necessary to customize the plan specifically to the individual. It is important to consider any significant injuries the individual may have had in the past to avoid future injuries. A major factor to consider are the individual’s weaknesses. If there is something that the individual needs to work on, then the fitness plan will consist of exercises that focus on improving that specific weakness.
What are realistic goals for people starting a fitness plan for the first time?
One of the biggest problems people face when starting a fitness plan is pushing themselves too much, too soon. When people start exercising, they want to see results as soon as possible and oftentimes take on more than they can handle. They exercise too often or too heavily, which can make them bored with their workout or too tired to continue. To make sure burnout does not occur, set goals that you can handle. A good way to assure you are setting goals you can accomplish, is to use the acronym S.M.A.R.T. Make sure your goals are:
Specific to what you would like to achieve
Measurable so you can track your progress
Attainable and not out of your reach
Relevant to your end goal
Time-based to keep you on track
What are some of the best exercises for seniors?
Standing behind a chair and raising, one leg at a time, out to the side. This exercise strengthens hip muscles and muscles in the thighs. Standing from a sitting position and repeating (sit to stands) is a great way to work the muscles in the legs, therefore helping with balance and the daily effort of standing from a chair. Simply walking is a great way to increase bone density, which is a natural defense from arthritis symptoms.
What are some benefits of group fitness classes?
Group fitness classes are a great way to start a fitness plan. They are perfect for those who do not want to exercise alone. The group aspect of the classes provides the participant with multiple friends who can hold them accountable for exercising and keep them on track, when the motivation is not there. Another great thing about group fitness is that it provides the chance to see others exercising, which may encourage participation during class times.
Do you have any examples of people who have started a fitness program and experienced positive results?
I once worked with an older gentleman who did not partake in any healthy habits, such as eating properly or working out. In fact, he thought exercise was silly and swore that it would not make a difference in his health. He was persuaded by his wife to exercise and had a fitness plan comprised mainly of squats, balancing on one foot, and a little work on a treadmill. After only a few weeks he started to notice his health getting better. He did not lose his breath as quickly walking up the staircase and no longer had to stop for a break when walking long distances. This just shows how even the most beginner fitness plans can truly improve your health.
How can people stay motivated to stay with their fitness program?
The best advice I can give, to those who have started a fitness program, is to listen to their bodies. Do not push yourself too hard so that you become tired of your program or injured, but also do not cheat yourself out of a program that is challenging. When you listen to your body, you can exercise at a pace which will allow you the most benefit possible from your fitness program. The hardest part is getting started. After you put forth the effort to stick with your program, you will start seeing results of your hard work and that is the best possible motivation.
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Brittany Meador served as Wellness Department Supervisor for Blakeford at Green Hills for four years. A native of Columbia, Tennessee, Brittany earned her degree in Exercise Science from Lipscomb University in Nashville.