Senior fitness plays such a major role in living well after retirement that we can’t help but talk about it all the time.
We talk about how important regular exercise is in staying fit as a senior. We called exercise one of the best things older adults can do for their health, suggested activities and classes, and even offered simple home exercises that anyone can try.
We talk a lot about senior fitness, but not as much about fitness safety. Healthy exercise may seem redundant, but work out safety is a priority when fear of injury is one of the main reasons that many older adults choose not to exercise.
So today, in honor of Healthy Aging Month this September, we’re going to look at 4 ways that older adults can stay safe and healthy as they exercise.
1. Talk with your senior healthcare team.
Talking to your doctor is the first, and best, thing you can do to make sure that you’re exercising safely.
There are very few health problems that make exercise a physical impossibility. It doesn’t matter if you have disabilities, or if you’re overweight, or have a chronic health problem—there’s probably some kind of activity you’ll be able to participate in. Your doctor can help you find it.
2. Stay hydrated.
Dehydration can be dangerous even if you aren’t being particularly active, but it’s worse when you’re breaking a sweat. If you don’t want to end up doing damage to your body, you need to make sure that you’re properly hydrated while you exercise.
Start off hydrated and keep drinking fluids while you work out to make sure you don’t become too dehydrated.
Drink between 8 to 14 ounces of water no more than an hour before you start your activity then make sure you get about 6 to 8 ounces of water for every 15 minutes you work out as you’re exercising. If you’re going to be working out for more than an hour, you probably want to sip at a sports drink to make sure you’re replacing your electrolytes as well as your fluids.
Make sure you drink water after you’re done with your fitness routine, too. Drinking while you exercise won’t stop dehydration wholesale, so drink about 16 to 24 ounces once you stop working out.
3. Fuel up.
Power up before your workout to make sure you don’t run out of steam while you’re exercising.
You shouldn’t eat a full meal more than 3 or 4 hours before exercising if you want to avoid cramps, but a small snack—about 100-200 calories—that’s high in carbs can give you the energy you need to get through your routine.
Healthy Snacking Option: Toast or a small amount of fruit like banana or grapes
If you’re going to be active for more than an hour, make sure you take a break to refuel. A smaller snack—about 100 calories—in the middle of a long workout can keep you from flagging.
Healthy Snacking Option: A small energy or protein bar
After your work out, you can speed up the recovery of your muscles by having a protein heavy snack (about 100-150 calories).
Healthy Snacking Option: low-fat yogurt or peanut butter with a little bit of fresh fruit
4. Exercise with others.
Get a group of friends together to head to the gym or take a walk around the block if you don’t feel safe exercising on your own. Having friends close at hand ensures that you’ll be able to get help in the unlikely event that anything does go wrong. Plus, working out with others is a great way to stay in touch with friends (or family) or even make new friends to build up your supportive network.
If you don’t exercise because you’re worried that you’ll get hurt, consider joining a senior fitness class or working with a qualified wellness professional. A fitness instructor will be able to walk you step-by-step through exercises, tailor classes to your abilities, or help you design a solo routine that safe to follow alone.