Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

5 Ways to Include Pets at Your Senior Living Community

NIFS  | Senior with petMany senior living communities across the country are starting to recommend bringing your furry friend from your current residence to your community residence. Pets provide a sense of purpose, calmness, companionship, and security for older adults. Check out this post from Aging in Place about how having a pet can improve the aging process.

 

So what are the best ways to include pets at your senior living community? There’s no doubt that an include pets in day-to-day community life.having a pet companion not only improves quality of life for seniors, but also provides residents with opportunities to stay active and interact socially with others. Here are some ways that you can include your pet in day-to-day community life. 

Outdoor Community Dog Park

Senior living communities have invested in making specific spaces for your furry pal to get regular exercise and be safe to roam in a fenced-in area. These common areas are great for residents to socialize and interact with their pets while feeling secure that their companion won’t run off.

A few of our Active Aging sites have community dog parks and regularly host events and programs to ensure socialization and fun with pets. Tracy, a NIFS Active Aging Manager in Mystic, Connecticut, started a program once a week called YAP it UP. Residents meet at the community dog park and chat with others while exercising with their pets. Another great bonus to Tracy’s program is that residents without pets are also are encouraged to join so that they can enjoy the company of both their peers and pets. This is one great example of the many benefits that pets can bring to your community.

Have an Annual Pet Day Event

What better way to get your pet involved than with an outdoor community dog day event? This would be a great way to show off your creativity and expressiveness. There are many ways that your community can host a dog day event.

  • Best in show: Host a fun, lighthearted dog show for community leaders to judge your furry friend.
  • Wiener dog races/pet races: A wiener dog race is a fun event that can include the entire community.
  • Pet grooming event/philanthropy: Have your community host a pet grooming/bathing event to raise money for a good cause. This also could be a great opportunity to contact a local veterinary clinic to come and provide vaccinations.

Therapy Pet Visits

Many of our NIFS senior living communities host therapy dog visits to their health center and assisted living residents regularly. The animals are intended to serve as companions and have gone through programs to ensure the safety of the residents and animal. If your community is unfamiliar with therapy dogs and training's near you, the AKC has information on how to train or find therapy animals for your next event.

The Crate Escape

Many residents enjoy having a walking trail for their outdoor adventures. It’s a great way to get fresh air and enjoy a little sunshine. Why not make it more impactful and bring your pet? Dogs need social interaction and companionship just as much as people do. Bringing your furry friend on a group walk provides a sense of community. It also provides a sense of security that will get you back out with a group.

Pet + Yoga

Yoga is a very beneficial form of exercise. Yoga is known to reduce stress, increase flexibility, and help you focus on mindfulness. Make this journey even more fun by adding pets to the mix. Depending on your pet’s obedience, size, and personality, yoga can be something that you both enjoy. Our Active Aging NIFS Manager in Lakewood, New Jersey, Rachel, recently hosted an event like this during Active Aging Week. The event was so successful that her community is going to start hosting it regularly.

All of these activities are safe, impactful ways to include pets in your community. Have you hosted or participated in a pet-friendly event recently? Comment below! We would love to hear about ways that pets are part of your community.

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Topics: active aging senior living activities senior living communities staying active yoga

NIFS Personal Training in Active Aging Communities

NIFS | Active Aging Personal TrainingThere are many reasons to work with a personal trainer from NIFS, and in this blog we cover the top five: forming habits, fun, accountability, comfortability, and safety.

 

F: Forming Habits

One of the many benefits of working with a NIFS personal trainer is forming healthy habits. When you decide to start personal training, you and your trainer will being with some goals by picking a set number of days and times to meet each week. Your NIFS personal trainer will encourage you to stick to this schedule every week in order to develop a habit. By sticking to this new habit of “every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 1pm, I will work out with my trainer,” you will start to develop the habit and some consistency. Eventually you will feel more energized (and hopefully excited) around that time every week and look forward to the health benefits that you are gaining.

F: Fun!

Going to group fitness class and exercising can be fun as well, and it is something that many people prefer. Your NIFS trainer will ensure that your workout is educational, appropriate for your goals, safe, and enjoyable! When doing any kind of physical activity, it is important that you are doing something that you enjoy. When you are having fun with your workout, you will more than likely perform better—and most importantly, come back for another session!

A: Accountability

Having a NIFS personal trainer also provides a sense of accountability. Your trainer can help you stay on top of your appointments by sending reminder cards and personal phone calls. It is also encouraging to know that someone is counting on you to be there, which increases the sense of accountability. We do, however, know that life happens and things pop up. When this happens we are willing to work with your busy and ever-changing schedules and life scenarios. Your trainer will be empathetic and flexible to your needs and can reschedule as needed.

C: Comfortability

It is also our job as NIFS personal trainers to provide an environment where our residents are comfortable. This entails many aspects. During the exercises themselves, we want to avoid any exercise that causes you pain either during or after your workout. We will ensure a strong line of communication throughout our sessions in order to avoid painful experiences. We also strive to create an environment where you feel comfortable with us as your trainer. For every session and with a smile, we will explain what we will be doing for the day, educate you on our focus and how it helps you, and maintain a positive and encouraging attitude.

S: Safety

The most important part of having a trainer is their knowledge and ability to train safely. Falling is a risk, but with a NIFS personal trainer, that risk is always considered and mitigated to the best of our ability. Beyond that, we look for exercises to help reduce this risk, and are right by your side every step of the way. No matter what task you are taking on that day, you can trust that your trainer will be there to help keep you safe. We always look for safer ways to perform exercise and are there in case you stumble. Our number-one priority is to help you safely improve your quality of life and provide the tools for you to succeed.

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Topics: personal training group fitness active aging healthy habits accountability injury prevention

Is an electric wheelchair really "taking the easy way out?"

NIFS | wheelchair challengeThere isn’t anything easy about it. Residents were put to the test during Active Aging Week 2018 by completing an electric wheelchair obstacle course. An electric wheelchair is quite an intimidating assisted device that many residents around the building use to navigate the building. This was a great chance to see how residents could handle themselves in a situation where an electric wheelchair might be a last effort chance to remain independent and mobile.

The primary goal of this activity was for residents to see how life felt in someone else’s shoes for a moment. Electric wheelchairs aren’t always an ideal way to get around. Sure, it might get you from point A to point B in a shorter amount of time, but they often get looked down upon for “taking the easy way out.” Is it really the easy way out? The only easy thing about it seemed to be the fact that one could sit down in the process. Residents were quick to find out how much dexterity and fine motor skills are involved in steering this battery operated device.

Cones were set up in a large circle in the center of the room. Residents were instructed to drive around the circle as close to the cones as possible. When they made it the entire way around, they turned into the circle between two cones, without hitting them, and circled the cones in the opposite direction. Following the completion of the change of direction, the residents were instructed to pull between two cones that were located against the wall. This exercise was designed to simulate pulling between two chairs at the dinner table. They had to stop before the wheelchair crashed into the table (in this case, the wall). Then they had to back up as straight as possible and drive back to the starting position to exchange with the next resident in line.

All of the residents noted how fidgety the steering component was on the device. It didn’t always move in the exact manner they intended. The wheels are located in the back of the chair, which produces a much smaller turning radius that threw the residents for quite a loop. Some had trouble with speed control. Some had trouble with backing up. Everyone had their own complaints or pains about using the wheelchair for those 5 minutes.

Overall, the consensus was the same. Everyone enjoyed the experience, but knew they didn’t want to use the chair full time. Each person spoke about the stigma that came with using an electric wheelchair in public. Many residents would jump to the other side of the room when someone approached them in the chair because they thought they were too dangerous. Now the hope is that people will be more considerate and thoughtful towards those residents confined to a chair for mobility and independence.

NIFS can to help initiate activities like this at your community! Click below to download our quick read on how outsourcing your community fitness center might be the right move.  

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Topics: active living senior living activities active aging electric wheelchair active aging week,

Knowing what makes your residents tick could improve programs

Your community is, or should be built on resident satisfaction. Your residents are your priority, but they are also your revenue. Without them, your community increases the chances of failing. It’s important to understand this when building programming at your senior living community.

Every community is different. Every resident has a specific want or need. Our job as Wellness Managers is to hone in on what those needs and wants are and to address them. How do you do this? Here are five ways to assess your wellness programs so they are continuously successful and you are meeting the demands of your residents.

NIFS | A closer look

#1 - Get to know your resident population

It takes some time to understand what your residents really enjoy. It’s also important to note that not all residents are the same. Where some may enjoy the social interaction and class environment, others enjoy solitary fitness or wellness programs. It’s important to identify these differences and make sure that wellness programs have variety and cover many different personalities and preferences.

#2 - Listen to ALL resident feedback and take action

This can be tough, but is necessary to grow and develop a program that residents enjoy. If a resident comes to you and says, “I don’t think this program is successful and this is why…,” it’s important to take a deep breath, and LISTEN. As hard as it may be to sit back as it feel like someone is tearing your hard work into shreds, they are providing valuable information to improve your programming. Be open to the positive and negative feedback so you can make the necessary changes for improvement.

#3 - Evaluate your wellness programs

Evaluating wellness programs is the key to success. There are many different ways to do this. The best way is to keep track of your data and evaluate it. How many residents participated in your event/program/specialty classes? Did it show an increase in overall participation for the month in which you ran the program? Did you make a survey and distribute it to residents that participated? These are all valuable ways of gathering information to see if wellness programs are a hit or a miss.

#4 - Make sure programs are evolving over time

Your programs should evolve with your residents. If you have been running the same wellness programs for five years and haven’t changed them at all, it becomes routine, less exciting for some, and participation may decrease. Give residents something new and fun to enjoy. I am not telling you to completely re-invent the wheel, but to simply add/take away/replace some aspect of your program to make it more enticing and fresh. You’ll be amazed by what small and simple modifications can do for the community and programs.

#5 - Ask for help

It’s okay to ask community leaders, colleagues and staff members for information and help to reignite or invent a completely new program. Team work is one of the best ways for a community to put on a great event. Don’t be afraid to ask for help throughout your planning.

Being proactive in assessing fitness and wellness programs will not only keep you informed about the impact you are making for your community, it will also show that you genuinely care about the goals you are trying to achieve. Your community will recognize that not only are you putting in the effort to make a program, but you are also putting in the groundwork to make that program successful, enjoyable, and have a positive impact for residents.

Click below to learn more about partnering with NIFS to manage your senior living community fitness center.

Partner with NIFS to improve your senior living community

Topics: senior living wellness programs active aging program evaluation programming improving senior fitness resident engagement resident wellness programs senior fitness management nifs fitness managment

How One Resident Walked 100 Miles in One Month


NIFS | Senior Resident

An interview with Ida Lee of Wyndemere Senior Living, Wheaton, Illinois.

In June of 2018, residents at Wyndemere Senior Living in Wheaton, Illinois were challenged to participate in a fitness program called, Exercise Across America. For every mile exercised, residents received 100 miles on distance on a map, towards their favorite location. By month’s end, one resident had blown past the others by walking 109 miles (10,900 map-miles towards her Los Angeles, California destination). Ida Lee walked nearly four miles a day to achieve this goal and according to Ida, June was a “bad” month as she had additional commitments that took away from her exercise time. The closest runner-up accumulated 78 miles. 

Ida Lee, age 79, has always preferred walking for exercise. She began walking longer distances in January 2018, after realizing she had extra time in her day. She also discovered that the Health app in her iPhone would track both her steps and walking distance. Recalling an exercise program that her sister did a few years ago, Ida decided in February 2018, to make walking 10,000 steps her daily goal. 

What are the three biggest benefits you’ve seen since you started walking?

Answer:  It gives me a sense of accomplishment. Walking 10,000 steps takes at least one hour and 40 minutes so it keeps me busy. It also helps stabilize my weight because I have a healthy appetite.

Do you have any tricks or secrets that help you get you going on those rough days?

Answer:  If I am really busy I don’t worry if I don’t meet the goal.  On hot days, I walk early in the morning and late in the evening.  Also, keep your phone in your pocket or in a small purse with a shoulder strap.

What do you do in rainy weather or during the winter?

Answer:  In winter, if the sidewalks are too icy, I walk the halls in our large building. Outside, I wear layers of warm clothes in winter and a raincoat on rainy days. I usually have my two Cocker Spaniels as walking companions so an umbrella is too much bother.

What tips can you recommend to others to get the most out of a walking program?

Answer: Don’t try to walk 10,000 steps all at once. Take several short walks of 30 minutes or less.  I average 100 steps per minute.

What are the biggest challenges you have with trying to get a walk in every day?

Answer:  In January 2018, I began to suffer from episodes of vertigo that lasted from 20 minutes to several hours. Most of the time, I have been able to reach my walking goal on these days.  Days when I’ve scheduled too many sit down meetings are a challenge, also.  Weekends without plans often lead to a “couch potato” problem.

What keeps you motivated to keep on going? Why do you continue to do it?

Answer: I feel so good at the end of the day if I’ve reached my goal. When I add up my total miles for a month and I’ve reached or exceeded 100 miles, I really feel I’ve accomplished something.

Ida plans to continue walking 100 miles per month as long as her body allows. “I think my two artificial knees will last a long time, especially if I keep my weight under control” says Ida.  She hopes to walk a 5K in Waukesha, Wisconsin next year.  “The last time I tried it, I injured my hip because I hadn’t trained before the walk.” Even if Ida forgoes the 5K, she will still be keeping busy.  In addition to walking, each week she attends two chair yoga classes, two balance classes, and occasional aquatic exercise classes.  Wyndemere may have to rename that fitness program Exercise Around the World just to keep up with Ida.

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Topics: senior living walking tips walking starting a walking program motivation active aging fitness routine

Senior Living: Putting the Fun Back in Your Fitness Program

When planning exercise and physical activity programs for our active older adults, it’s sometimes easy to get lost in the nuts and bolts of programming, and as a result, we can forget to ask one important question about our programs.  “Are the residents having fun?”  We know how important fun and play is for all ages, but it’s especially crucial for senior living residents that commonly struggle with anxiety, loneliness, and depression.

Finding ways to create a fun environment is especially important when developing exercise programs because for most people exercising isn’t inherently a “fun” endeavor. This is even more the case for the average active aging resident who might have limited exposure to exercise, and when they think of exercise all they picture is what they see on reality TV shows. So, how can we can make our programming more enjoyable for all residents?

Playing sports

We don’t always think about sports when it comes to senior living, but sports play is a great way to add fun into your current programming, and to provide your residents a chance to relieve past glories, or have an experience they’d never expected to have. The best part is that every sport can be modified to fit your residents and their abilities. This past spring we introduced Chair Volleyball to the residents at North Oaks, and it was an instant hit. They had so much fun, that they played for almost an hour and didn’t realize it. Most encouraging was that the majority of the group had never played volleyball in their lives, and now had a brand new experience they could return to for social interaction and movement. 

NIFS | seniors seated fitness

Adding a social aspect to group fitness classes

This is the simplest, cheapest, and easiest thing you can do today. Instead of just walking through the door, teaching, and leaving; strive to make your classes more interactive. This could be as simple as having participants count repetitions when lifting weights with you. Earlier in my career I started classes off by telling a silly joke, and it became a hit. From that point on, I allowed participants to provide the jokes every day. It was simple, a lot of fun, a great opportunity for important social interaction, and was something to look forward to before each class. 

[Read More: How One Community Got Focused on Brain Fitness]

Striking up random silliness

Here is where you have a tremendous opportunity to be creative and take advantage of the personalities of each residents.  It can be as simple as playing music with different themes in the fitness center, in a group classes, or having a day where the participants wear funny hats and dress in the same color. The potential ideas are limitless and can really help create an environment where the residents are active members of your programs and not just passive participants. 

 Obviously, what every person considers to be fun will be different, but that provides an incredible opportunity to try new things and think outside of the box. Finding ways to increase the “fun level” of your programming can sometimes be a challenge, but there are plenty of easy, lost cost ways to increase the value of programs for residents.  What are some ideas that you have tried in your facility to make your programs more fun? If you’re thinking about this for the first time,  it’s time to have some fun and get creative!

How we improved an already successful fitness program

Topics: senior fitness active aging adding fun to senior fitness improving senior fitness

Senior Fitness: Don't be afraid to go back to the basics

In every fitness center setting it seems that the goal is to provide the most up-to-date, “trendy” group fitness classes and personal training. And while I agree that trying to offer something new and exciting is very important, I also think that sometimes we need to bring fitness back to the basics.

NIFS | seniors seated stretching

This is very important at a senior living setting. Many of our senior living communities support active living for several hundred people and providing fitness services appropriate for every fitness level can be challenging. It easy to cater to the “most active” group of participants. But we wanted to make sure we were reaching as many different residents as possible, so our fitness center staff challenged ourselves to take it back to the basics by providing a personalized group training that focused on the “bare bones” of exercise. And let me tell you, it has been some of the most rewarding work I’ve done to date! 

While I can’t deny that fitness professionals get a thrill out of providing a tough workout in a high intensity class and hearing “that was hard,” I can honestly say that providing an appropriate workout for those who need to take it back to the basics of fitness is also just as thrilling. Being able to coach a member to stand up from his chair independently when he hasn't been able to in a long time can make your heart swell with pride for his accomplishment. 

Now I’m taking that “back to basics” challenge to you dear reader. If you work in a senior fitness setting, take a look at your membership. Start identifying the needs of your members who struggle with standing, walking, overall balance, basic strength, and most importantly their confidence! One of the criteria we used when we started evaluating who might benefit most from “back to basics” programming was to begin with members who tend to get a little behind in class and do not reap the full the benefits. 

Once you build that member list, start reaching out individually to target specific fitness and functional living needs. Then watch how your overall participation numbers grow and how the increased confidence of some of your more frail residents helps them gain additional strength for every day needs. This experience has surprised me; I didn’t expect that getting back to the basics would be so rewarding and exciting, but it has been an absolute joy. Have a similar story to share? Respond the comments below.

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Topics: active aging senior group fitness classes group fitness for seniors exercise and aging resident fitness fitness for frail seniors

Senior Fitness: Common Myths about Fitness as You Age

Aging is a natural and guaranteed process. You can’t stop getting older. This doesn’t mean you have to concede to the idea that getting older means being less than what you were in younger decades of life. Being regularly active is an important part of aging well, and yet, working in the active aging fitness industry, I have seen many older adults have come up with a plethora of excuses to not exercise. Here are some common myths that older adults use to avoid exercise and my tips for how to address them.

NIFS | Seniors Stretching

I’m too old.

I think we can agree that this is very outdated; the research tells us you're never too old to move your body. There have been many studies showing that staying physically active all of your life positively outweighs aging while sitting still. But, I think there is a hidden meaning in “I’m too old.” i think it's more about change than it is about age. People like to stick to their routines, older adults are no exception, and what folks often mean when they say, “I’m too old” is that exercise is out of their comfort zone. It’s a blanket answer to get the fitness monkey off their back.

In reality, they are scared to change and may need a boost from you to help get them thinking more positively. One of the ways that I help the residents who use this saying as their mantra is by engaging them in a non-physical meet and greet activity. I introduce them to other active aging residents who enjoy classes, recreational offerings, and the fitness center. The idea is not to talk to them the whole time about why they should join the fitness center and all of the great benefits, because, deep down, they already know. The idea is to get them around a group of people that they can turn to and make friends with. They are more likely to commit if they have a buddy.

[Read our Senior Fitness blog: What's the Point of Exercising]

I have an injury.

Injuries are not to be taken lightly and as a fitness professional, I definitely have a medical release secured prior to engaging a resident in exercise. If you receive an “all clear” from the doc, an older adult client who is still leaning on the injury excuse may be in fact fearful that their injury is going to get worse or come back if they embark on regular exercise. But if you present yourself as an educated professional (because you’ve done your research), you can coach the individual in safe and effective exercises. Despite your efforts, not everyone will get on board, but the more they trust you in your profession, the more likely you are to have them participate and start leading a healthier lifestyle.

I like to keep to myself.

This can be a difficult one. Introverts, especially older introverts, may need a little extra push to get moving. The best way I have found to engage with these individuals is by finding out what they enjoy doing. When speaking to them one-on-one, I relate to their interests and try to form a bond. Slowly, they start to come around. These residents normally enjoy one-on-one appointments or scheduled times when not too many people are in the fitness center.

Knowing your population’s needs is half the battle. Establishing a positive connection with your audience is how you are going to get them to be more active and engaged. Remember, it can be really scary to start something new. Being understanding and taking the time to help them find their niche is one of the most important things you can do as a fitness professional.

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Topics: senior fitnes active aging myths about aging exercise and aging why older adults don't exercise

Does Your Senior Living Community Wellness Program Foster Ageism?

Several months ago, I listened to an interview on NPR with Ron Christie. He talked about working with President George W. Bush, who pressed the idea of combating the soft bigotry of low expectations when it came to the achievement gap for kids in schools. Turns out, the soft bigotry of low expectations is alive and well in all sorts of domains in this country, including how we view the abilities of older adults.

“If I accept you as you are, I will make you worse; however, if I treat you as though you are what you are capable of becoming, I help you become that.” ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

NIFS | Playing FrisbeeOne of the challenges that wellness program leaders in senior living communities must overcome is making sweeping assumptions about the abilities of their audience. And it's no easy task. I am in communities across the country on a regular basis where I'm routinely surprised by the stories I hear from residents about how enthusiastically they're living their lives right now. Shame on me. After more than a decade of doing this work, I am still amazed at how vibrant my elders can be. That amazement, though positive and delighting, is rooted in my ageist assumptions that older adults somehow cannot or should not live with the same enthusiasm that I choose for myself. It is representative of the soft bigotry of low expectations.

Whether or not you can see these ageist assumptions in your own beliefs, you can see it very tangibly in the activity calendars, which are the visible display of how residents are invited to live well in your community. It shows up on senior living activity calendars in these (and other) ways:

  • Unique activities? Does your calendar have fewer than 5% of activities each month that are truly unique to the month, quarter, or year? If you're not sure, try this: pull up three months of calendars and cross off every item that is routine, including standing card games, meetings, birthday celebrations, group fitness classes, etc. See what's left and consider how empty your calendar might be if it highlighted only the unique events.
  • Passive vs. active? Does your calendar have a substantial percentage of the programming designed to be passive (sit-and-listen) rather than activating residents' minds and bodies? How many events are truly resident-led where the staff are only providing assistance with room reservation and possible event communication? Which programs can you point to that facilitate meaningful social interaction for your residents?
  • Serving just the vocal minority? Are your calendar events built largely on the vocal minority requests, where the activity director serves as an order-taker instead of pulling from a broader base of residents, community connections, etc.?

[Read More: 3 Keys To Improving Resident Engagement In Wellness]

Those are not the hallmarks of programming that communicate the capability, energy, and desires of the seniors we serve. Those are very much representative of offerings for those who are retiring from life. They tend to be narrow in scope, limiting in new experiences, and focused on probably 20–30% of your population. They demonstrate our lowered expectations for what will inspire seniors to engage.

Fortunately, it seems the senior living industry as a whole is moving toward educating on ageist stereotyping and uncovering systemic challenges that make it hard to overcome the generalized belief that increasing age means decreasing value to society. LeadingAge offered this "beginning conversation" in the magazine late in 2016, and the International Council on Active Aging has been beating the drum against ageism as well.

At the community level, using a fresh lens to see what's possible from an activities standpoint is a good start. That means dropping (as best you can) any perceptions you have about the audience you serve. You can take a stab at revealing your assumptions by giving a colleague your elevator speech about what you do.

  • Do you include assumptions about what programs residents will and will not participate in?
  • Do you have an underlying assumption of frailty in your residents?
  • Does your message speak to how resistant your residents are to change?

If your focus is on keeping residents busy and entertaining them, you may be building your enrichment program on ageist stereotypes. Perhaps it's time to do better. Check out these concrete ideas for truly honoring the passions and interests of your lively and very much alive residentsOr, if you're ready to get busy evaluating what you have as a starting point for making improvements, check out our quick read on how to evaluate the quality of your wellness program.

Find out how to evaluate your program

Topics: senior wellness activities active aging ageism senior living senior living community

Tips for Starting an Exercise Program at an Older Age

According to an article in Psychology Today, one of the major reasons people tend to stop exercising after recently starting an exercise routine is that they do not want to experience discomfort. After reading this article, it made me wonder whether this is the reason some residents are more hesitant than others to incorporate exercise into their everyday lives. Investigating further into this, I had conversations with several residents about this. Some of them mentioned that they have the feeling they might be doing too much, too soon.

[Getting started: What Exercises Should I do?]

ThinkstockPhotos-72459386.jpgWith exercise showing benefits such as improved balance, increased total-body strength, improved cognition, and reduction of chronic illness, it is difficult to understand why people would not exercise. However, there are two reasons why I think this “too much, too soon” judgment could arise in senior fitness: 

  • Your body has not become neuromuscularly adapted to exercise and you are engaging muscle groups that are not commonly utilized in everyday life.
  • The exercise is too strenuous from overtraining, either causing strains in de-conditioned muscle groups, or potential re-injury. You can use this article from the American Council on Exercise (ACE) as a guide to determine whether you are experiencing overtraining. 

Following are four tips for starting an exercise program at an older age that I provide to residents in my senior living community.  Combat that “too much, too soon” feeling, and ease into the process of adding exercise to their everyday lives without overdoing it.

Monitor How You Are Feeling

A great way of measuring this is to use an RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion) Scale to measure how hard you feel your body is working. On a scale of 0–10 (with a 0 being at complete rest, and 10 being at highest possible intensity), you should exercise within a 3 or a 4 intensity (at a moderate intensity).

Recording your heart rate after exercise is also an effective measurement of exertion. If you notice after several minutes that your heart rate is not decreasing after exercise, your body is not recovering properly.

Stop exercise if you are experiencing severe bone/joint pain, or sudden pressure in your chest, neck, shoulder, or arms.

Begin Slowly and Gradually Increase Duration/Intensity

If you are new to exercise, start out by scheduling exercises at least 2–3 times per week, for 15–20-minute sessions. As you become more physically adapted to exercise, you could increase your frequency to roughly 4–5 days per week. When you reach a point where you would like to increase your resistance and/or intensity, make sure that you make no more than a 5% increase in one week.

If you have been exercising for a while, don’t hesitate to reduce your workload to re-acclimate your body to the regular routine. This might include coming to an exercise class that is seated rather than standing, or cutting back a few minutes on your daily walk.

Plan Rest Days Accordingly

If you do not give your body the opportunity to rest in between exercise sessions, it will have physiological effects on your nervous system, and potentially develop micro-trauma and overuse injuries. You could also spend your rest and recovery days doing light stretching exercises, or going for a light walk.

Be Patient

It will take at least 3–6 weeks for your body to develop neuromuscular adaptation to exercise, and to achieve long-lasting results.

If you incorporate a slow and steady approach and find that proper balance in your exercise routine, you’ll have a higher rate of success in achieving your exercise goals and avoid a setback. 

Exercise for older adults is about more than just physical fitness, grab our quickread below and read more about the importance of exercise in aging well.

 Download: Why is exercise important for seniors? >

Topics: senior fitness senior living community active aging exercise