5 Important Tips for Seniors to Get Motivated to Exercise
Physical activity and nutrition are key to good overall health for individuals of all ages, but especially for seniors. Exercising regularly and maintaining an appropriate diet can help older adults mitigate the risk of osteoporosis, diabetes, and other chronic diseases. Moreover, physical activity can improve immune system function and mental well-being. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all adults perform at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every week.
However, it can be hard to find the motivation to achieve weekly physical activity requirements, even for older adults aware of the physical and cognitive health risks associated with inactivity. Some barriers to consistent weekly exercise include activities that are either too challenging or not enjoyable or the absence of positive reinforcement and structure.
The following is a look at five tips and strategies that can help seniors follow a more structured exercise routine.
1. Plan to Exercise at a Convenient Time
Regardless of age, it can be tough for individuals to find time to exercise. With so many distractions and responsibilities in life, some people either put aside exercise until it’s too late in the day or avoid it altogether. By scheduling it into a convenient part of the day, you are more likely to follow through and reap the benefits of daily physical activity. Retired adults, for instance, might prefer to start their day with a light 30-minute exercise.
It’s also important to note that physical activity doesn’t have to take place in the gym or involve weights. Older adults who work can find ways to fit additional steps into their day by taking stairs as opposed to an elevator when possible or going for walks on their lunch breaks. Walking the dog or completing household chores can also qualify as part of the required 150 minutes of weekly physical activity.
2, Make It Fun and Enjoyable
A lack of enjoyment is one of the most prominent motivational barriers to exercise for older adults. Walking is a great daily activity because it is both practical and helps burn calories, but isn’t as beneficial as other activities in building strength, coordination, and balance. These skills can be improved through strength training exercises in the gym, but that might not exactly be enjoyable for older adults.
Instead, seniors should look for sports or other physical activities and games they enjoy. Tennis, golf, and pickleball are fun activities that provide a full-body workout. Other options include Pilates, yoga, and swimming, the latter of which is especially beneficial for seniors as it’s a low-impact exercise that is easy on the joints, boosts cardiovascular health, and decreases the risk of osteoporosis.
3. Exercise with Others
According to the CDC, social isolation dramatically increases an individual’s risk of premature death and is associated with a 50 percent increased risk of dementia. Thus, exercising with others is good for meeting not only physical but emotional health requirements. Working out with a friend, whether through daily walks or part of a group exercise class, is also a great way for seniors to hold themselves accountable.
In a March 2000 study published in the Journal of Gerontological Nursing, researchers Barbara Resnick and Ann Marie Spellbring found that seniors are more likely to adhere to an exercise program if they set attainable goals.
4. Start with Attainable Goals
Setting and achieving goals is a great motivator for all aspects of life, especially physical fitness. Accomplishing fitness goals helps improve confidence and provides added motivation to keep progressing. Relatively inactive seniors should set attainable goals when starting a physical activity plan. If a 30-minute walk sounds too challenging, consider walking for 10 minutes three times a day. Once these 10-minute walks become easier, try increasing to two 15-minute walks a day.
5. Try Fitness Education and Tracking
What motivates one person to exercise consistently might not work for another. Seniors who struggle with motivation should meet with a healthcare professional who can educate them about the importance of physical activity and suggest ways they can achieve their weekly goals.
“I have recognized this benefit with a lot of my physiotherapy clients. Having a physiotherapy appointment on the calendar will motivate clients to complete their exercise programs until that upcoming appointment,” explains registered physiotherapist David Friesen. “During the appointment, I can tell clients are excited to tell me about how well they kept up with their program or we can discuss ways in which they didn’t reach their goals and how we can work to change certain aspects of their program.”
Seniors can keep track of their progress by logging minutes spent walking or engaging in other physical activities. Pedometers and other wearable tracking devices can automatically record minutes spent walking or steps taken each day. Knowing this information can provide seniors with the motivation to set new daily records.