In this interview, Dr. Susan Scharpf discusses the best ways for seniors to get started with a workout routine, and some great tools to help make it a habit.
Watch the video below or read on for some takeaways from the interview.
What Should You Consider Before Starting?
Consider whether you need aerobic activity, weight training, resistance training or all of the above. This is something that you certainly can speak with your physician about. Sometimes people will need a medical clearance before they begin going to a gym.
What Type of Routine Should I Start With?
Walking is usually a good place to start. Most everybody can walk, although some have arthritis or other issues that make it difficult. In those situations, we might suggest cycling or water aerobics if you have access to a pool. You don't have to belong to a gym to exercise; there are a lot of exercises that can be done at home or in a club that’s attached to an apartment complex or senior center.
How Can I Turn My Routine Into a Habit?
You definitely want your routine become a habit. You want to do something absolutely every day, so pick a time that will work for you. Morning might be good. Some people are not morning people and choose to exercise in the afternoon or evening. You also want to design something that is not dependent on the weather - if it's too cold or it's too rainy. You need to do it every day anyway. This is why something indoors is helpful to make the routine stick.
How Much Is Too Much?
This is really important to discuss with your physician. You will often have a discussion at your physical exam about what exercises will work best for you. If you have something that you are thinking about doing, consult your physician or speak with a wellness professional. Speaking with someone here at PartnerMD is a really good way to design a routine while making sure that it's not going to overtax your heart.
Most of the time, gentle exercises are fine for everybody but sometimes we have people who take on heavier duty exercises. For example, if you are someone who wants to run a marathon or walk a 10K, that may be something you want to discuss with your physician beforehand. We have a partnership with our patients, so we're able to really talk together about things like that.
What Are Some Helpful Tools I Can Use?
My favorite is the Fitbit. It actually was brought to me by a patient when someone bought it for her for Christmas and I said “what's that?”. It measures your steps and it helps to motivate people. I'm a competitive person, so I want to take more steps competing only with myself and it helps people to measure that. I'll talk to my patients because many people will have some kind of pedometer which can be really inexpensive, or there's Garmin and FlexFuel bands that give us a way to count how many steps or how much we're doing. Some of them will include reminders for people, and there's a lot of online programs too. PartnerMD works with a program that helps you track what foods you eat and what activities you do. FitBit does that also. MyFitnessPal is a free app that you can use for tracking weight and activity. Those are fun, extra tools to help us and they make you more accountable.
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