In the March 21st edition of The Washington Post “MisFits” column, Lenny Berstein introduces us to a gentleman named Roy Clark, who at 102 works out several times a week with his 70 year old personal trainer. Mr. Clark started working out seriously three years ago when he lost his daughter. He’d lost his wife two years before that and as he puts it, “I was getting a little lazy, so I decided I’d go down to the exercise club”.
Unfortunately for our growing population of the “older old”, those who are 85 years old and older, Mr. Clark is the exception. Most of the American population who reach this age are slowing sliding into frailty, suffering from at one, if not more chronic diseases and often battling balance and mobility problems that make it difficult to navigate through life’s daily challenges.
Mr. Clark’s exercise program of simple resistance weightlifting and walking would benefit most older adults in a myriad of ways starting with restoring strength and helping with balance.
According to the National Institute on Aging, only 15% of individuals age 85 and older engage in any form of regular exercise. This despite clear evidence that it helps prevent many of the issues associated with aging such as falls, osteoporosis, and obesity.
How to Get Started
Part of the issue with older individuals and exercise is what to do and where to do it. When you’re older, you may think there aren’t as many options for exercising as there were then you were younger. While it may be true that the options may have changed, there are still plenty of exercise options to choose from if you look around.
Check out your local Community Center. There will usually be classes offered in Yoga, Zumba Gold, perhaps Aquatic Zumba, maybe a Lite Cardio, perhaps even a Wii Bowling or Wii Golf class. Any of these would be a great place to start and you might even make some new friends!
Call your local Senior or Active Living Center. They may offer classes or they will know who does.
Call the local hospital or ask your doctor. Many times, the local hospital will run a Wellness Center for the community which will offer health and wellness classes. This center will often offer their classes to seniors for free or at a reduced rate.
Call local Retirement and Senior Housing Communities. Often, retirement and senior housing communities will offer classes for their residents and will welcome other participants as well.
Call the local Gyms and Fitness Centers. These facilities often have experts who are trained in Senior Fitness and available to work one-on-one with older individuals. The facilities may also offer exercise and health and wellness classes.
In between sessions at the gym or the center, you can do light yoga or play Wii at home. This helps keep you motivated and you can work on flexibility or even just meditate. All you need it a mat and some tapes or a Wii and some grandkids!
Exercise doesn’t have to be the sweat-laden work out we see on television. If someone is 65 years old and just starting an exercise program, it’s advisable to start out slowly and build up. It’s also advisable to consult with your physician before starting any type of exercise program, especially if you haven’t been doing any type of exercise program at all.
The main goal is to stay active and stay fit – after all we all know: Use It or Lose It!