By W Cameron Tucker
We all know we should exercise, so why don’t we? No one said starting a regular exercise program is easy. The toughest part is to find the motivation and then commit to a routine regularly. The biggest roadblock for me was finding the time. Exercise was on my to-do list every day, but I just couldn’t seem to fit it in. Until I did. That’s when I realized I was simply making excuses. What’s your reason for procrastinating? Once you figure out the “why”, you can learn to confront the excuses that derail your best intentions.
Why Exercise is Essential for Seniors
Exercise is essential for seniors because it plays a crucial role in maintaining overall health and well-being. Here are some key benefits:
As we age, bone density tends to decrease, increasing the risk of fractures and osteoporosis. Weight-bearing and resistance exercises help maintain bone density and reduce the risk of fractures.
Muscle Mass and Strength:
Aging is associated with a natural decline in muscle mass and strength. Regular exercise, particularly strength training, can help counteract this decline, improving overall muscle function and reducing the risk of falls and injuries.
Exercise helps keep joints flexible and reduces the risk of conditions such as arthritis. Low-impact exercises like swimming, walking, or cycling can be especially beneficial for joint health.
Regular physical activity is essential for cardiovascular health. Exercise helps maintain a healthy weight, lowers blood pressure, and improves cholesterol levels, reducing the risk of heart disease.
Staying active has positive effects on mental health, reducing the risk of depression and anxiety. It also enhances cognitive function and may help prevent age-related cognitive decline.
As our metabolism tends to slow down with age, staying active becomes even more critical for managing weight. Combining exercise with a healthy diet helps prevent weight gain and obesity-related health issues.
Balance and Flexibility:
Aging can affect balance and flexibility, increasing the risk of falls. Activities like yoga and tai chi can improve balance and flexibility, reducing the likelihood of falls and injuries.
Chronic Disease Prevention:
Regular exercise can help prevent or manage various chronic conditions, including type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, and cardiovascular diseases.
Physical activity can contribute to better sleep, often an issue for older adults. Quality sleep is crucial for overall health and well-being.
Group exercise activities provide opportunities for social interaction, promoting a sense of community.
Reasons for Lack of Exercise: The 5 Most Common Exercise Excuses
I hear several different excuses time and time again. Here are the ones I hear most often.
Excuse #1: I Don’t Have Time
The “I don’t have time” excuse is a popular one that’s used far too often. As with everything else in life, you do what’s important to you. If you want to start to exercise, you find the time. The best time for me was in the morning before work. Waking up one hour early provided me with enough time to do my workout. I thought getting up early might make me more tired by the end of the day, but I found I had more energy which gave me extra time in my day. Others, who may not be morning people, may find it easier to exercise at the end of the workday. There are no right answers; just do what works for you.
Excuse #2: I’m Too Tired
You may not have a lot of stamina, but have you considered that perhaps you feel tired because you aren’t exercising? Force yourself to put on your gym shorts and go. Start slowly, perhaps with a walk, and preferably with a friend so you have someone to hold you accountable. Exercise also improves your sleep, so if you sleep better, you wake up with more energy. Getting started is the hardest part, but once you start to feel the benefits of exercise, you’ll want to continue.
Excuse #3: I’m Not an Athlete – How Do I Get Started at this Age?
Most of us aren’t athletes. And it’s not necessary to run marathons or be a competitive gymnast to be fit. The truth is all you really need is a desire to improve your health with fitness level. Once you decide to start, find an activity you enjoy at a location that’s convenient for you. If you’re not having fun or you need to drive to an out-of-the-way place, you are not likely to stick with your program. Start slowly and increase your time and intensity gradually. If you are starting something new, take a beginner class to avoid frustration. Remember you are not competing with others; you only need to do your personal best and strive to do a little better than you did the time before.
Excuse #4: I’m Uncomfortable at the Gym
If you’re uncomfortable at the gym, don’t go. It’s a s simple as that. You don’t have to. Home workouts can be found in abundance on the internet. Many instructional videos don’t even require any equipment. If you have the funds in your budget, hire a personal trainer to come to your house. Trainers work with you at your own pace and make sure you are exercising safely with good form. Once you have more confidence about your fitness level, you might want to try the gym again. I enjoy the social aspect of working out with others and you may find you do too.
Excuse #5: Exercise is Boring
Exercise needn’t be boring. Don’t do the same workout or exercise all the time. Find a few activities you enjoy and mix them up. Talk a walk for 30 minutes on Monday. Do a lightweight workout on Wednesday and play tennis on Friday. That’s a good way to improve your fitness level without it feeling like a chore.
Health Problems Caused by Lack of Exercise
Are you convinced yet that you should exercise at this stage of life? Considering that a lack of physical activity increases your risk of developing several diseases, perhaps it’s time to think more seriously about incorporating some type of exercise routine into your life. Here are some of the conditions linked to a lack of physical activity:
Regular exercise helps maintain a healthy cardiovascular system by improving blood circulation, reducing blood pressure, and lowering cholesterol levels.
Sedentary behavior is closely linked to obesity. It’s well documented that a lack of exercise contributes to weight gain because sitting around doesn’t burn up a lot of calories. To put this into perspective, studies report that agricultural workers can burn up to 1,000 more calories per day than people working desk jobs.
Type 2 Diabetes:
Research definitively shows that physical inactivity is a key factor in the development of type 2 diabetes and that regular exercise helps regulate blood sugar levels and improves insulin sensitivity. You need to keep moving!
A lack of weight-bearing exercise can contribute to the loss of bone density, increasing the risk of osteoporosis, especially in postmenopausal women and older adults.
Without regular physical activity, muscles can weaken and atrophy. This can lead to decreased strength, mobility, and overall functional capacity.
Depression and Anxiety:
As noted above, exercise is associated with a decreased risk of depression and anxiety disorders.
Sedentary behavior is linked to an elevated risk of certain types of cancers, including colon, breast, and endometrial cancers.
Chronic Respiratory Diseases:
Lack of exercise can lead to decreased lung function and may contribute to the development or exacerbation of chronic respiratory conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
These health risks are often interconnected, and the benefits of regular exercise extend across multiple body systems. Adopting a physically active lifestyle, combined with other healthy habits like a balanced diet and adequate sleep, can significantly contribute to overall well-being and disease prevention.
The Bottom Line
We know fitness is 90% mental and 10% physical. Whether you are a professional athlete, a newbie, or somewhere in between, the biggest obstacle is usually what’s going on in your mind. And most of the battle is just putting on your shoes. Often people will keep moving if they can just get their shoes on and get out the door.
If you’re honest with yourself, you know deep down that health and exercise should be a priority, right up there with family and paying bills. Good health will allow you to continue to feel young as you age. You will appreciate being able to keep up with your grandchildren someday and so will they! So, if you’re asking how to start an exercise program at 50+, just put on your shoes and get moving. If I can do it, anyone can!
DISCLOSURE: It’s important for individuals aged 50 and above to engage in a combination of aerobic, strength, flexibility, and balance exercises. However, before starting a new exercise program, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional, especially for those with pre-existing health conditions or concerns. This article is not intended as medical advice.
About the Author: W. Cameron Tucker
W. Cameron Tucker is a 6th generation Texan, related to the first President of Baylor University, Rufus Burleson, and the singer, Janis Joplin. He began his career as an architect but went on to found several businesses related to different aspects of real estate, exercise, and one car dealership. Later in life, W became an actor in Hollywood and was featured in various movies and TV shows including Betty White’s “Hot in Cleveland”.
An exercise enthusiast, W. launched a podcast, “Healthy and Fit After 40”, to share his expertise and help people meet their exercise goals.
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