Exercise For Seniors (cont.)
We have included this section on motivation because physical activity needs to be a regular, permanent habit to produce benefits. So does staying motivated!
Recording your scores and watching them improve can be an excellent motivator to exercise, and we have included charts at the end of this booklet so you can do that. But don't get discouraged if you see that your scores have improved by only a few seconds or just one or two lifts of a weight. In terms of real-life benefits, those slight improvements are multiplied many times over as you include them in your everyday activities. You incorporate that extra little bit of endurance and strength into everything you do, and it adds up to a lot.
But no matter how enthusiastic you are about exercise, there may be times when you need extra motivation. It's common for beginning exercisers, especially those who are frail, to make fast progress at first. You might get discouraged when the improvements you were making taper off at times.
These leveling-off periods are normal. Often, they mean that it's time to gradually make your activities more challenging. If you have any doubts about whether you are doing the right things to progress, check with your doctor or a qualified fitness professional.
When you need extra motivation, try the following:
- Ask someone to be your exercise buddy. Many older
adults agree that having someone to exercise with helps keep them going.
- Follow Georgia Burnette's advice: Listen to recorded
books or music while you do endurance activities.
- Set a goal, and decide on a reward you will get when
you reach it.
- Give yourself physical activity homework assignments
for the next day or the next week.
- Think of your exercise sessions as appointments, and
mark them on your calendar.
- Keep a record of what you do and of your progress.
Understand that there will be times that you don't show rapid progress and
that you are still benefiting from your activities during those times.
- Plan ahead for travel, bad weather, and house guests. For example, an
exercise video can help you exercise indoors when the weather is bad.
Sticking With It: What Works
According to the U.S. Surgeon General's report, you are more likely to keep doing physical activities if you:
- think that, overall, you will benefit from them
- include activities you enjoy
- feel you can do the activities correctly and safely
- have regular access to the activities
- can fit the activities into your daily schedule
- feel that the activities don't impose financial or
social costs you aren't willing to take on
- have few negative consequences from doing your activities (such as injury, lost time, or negative peer pressure)
In other words, set yourself up to succeed right from the start. Choose realistic goals, learn to do the exercises correctly and safely, and chart your progress to see your improvement.
Many different physical activities can improve your health and independence. Whether you choose to do the exercises shown in this chapter or other activities that accomplish the same goals, gradually work your way up to include endurance, strength, balance, and stretching exercises.
Here are some points to keep in mind as you begin increasing your activity:
- If you stop exercising for several weeks and then
return, start out at about half the effort you were putting into it when you
stopped, then gradually build back up. Some of the effects of endurance and
muscle-building exercises deteriorate within 2 weeks if these activities are
cut back substantially, and benefits may disappear altogether if they aren't
done for 2 to 8 months.
- When an exercise calls for you to bend forward, bend
from the hips, not the waist. If you keep your entire back and shoulders
straight as you bend forward, that will help ensure that you are bending the
right way, from the hips. If you find your back or shoulders humping in any
spot as you bend forward, that's a sign that you are bending incorrectly, from
the waist. Bending from the waist may cause spine fractures in some people
- It's possible to combine exercises. For example, regular stair-climbing sessions improve endurance and strengthen leg muscles at the same time.
How Hard Should I Exercise?
We can't tell you exactly how many pounds to lift or how steep a hill you should climb to reach a moderate or vigorous level of exercise, because what is easy for one person might be strenuous for another. It's different for different people.
We can, however, provide some advice based on scientific research: Listen to your body. The level of effort you feel you are putting into an activity is likely to agree with actual physical measurements. In other words, if your body tells you that the exercise you are doing is moderate, measurements of how hard your heart is working would probably show that it really is working at a moderate level. During moderate activity, for instance, you can sense that you are challenging yourself but that you aren't near your limit.
One way you can estimate how hard to work is by using the Borg Category Rating Scale, shown on the next page. It was named after Gunnar Borg, the scientist who developed it. The numbers on the left of the scale don't indicate how many times or how many minutes you should do an activity; they help you describe how hard you feel you are working.
- Fats, oils & sweets
- Milk, yogurt & cheese group
- Meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs & nuts group
- Vegetable group
- Fruit group
- Bread, cereal, rice & pasta group
For endurance activities, you should gradually work your way up to level 13 - the feeling that you are working at a somewhat hard level. Some people might feel that way when they are walking on flat ground; others might feel that way when they are jogging up a hill. Both are right. Only you know how hard your exercise feels to you.