Feature Archive

Fitness for the Long Term

WebMD Feature

May 29, 2000 -- You don't have to be a Senior Olympian or a genetically souped-up centenarian to reap the rewards of exercise and good nutrition. It is never too soon -- or too late -- to start getting in shape.

Karl Knopf, EdD, executive director of the Fitness Educators of Older Adults Association, says older people need to find "sensible mild to moderate exercise" that they enjoy. He also says that stretching is important to successful aging. Yoga may be helpful, but people with aches and pains should avoid some of the more difficult poses. If an exercise or stretch causes pain, don't continue. And checking in with your physician before embarking on a workout program is crucial.

In addition to aerobic exercise such as walking or swimming, Knopf recommends some degree of strength training, whether at a fully equipped gym or at home with light weights and rubber exercise bands. It's important that beginners get instruction from someone who understands the needs of older bodies; they should at least invest in a good exercise book.

If your body is in pain two hours after exercising, you should back off a bit, Knopf says. He adds that older adults probably shouldn't try to increase their rate of exercise by more than 10% a week, but even small increases add up faster than people often expect.