balance ball exercise senior citizens

Staying Strong: Finding an Activity that works for you

Contributed by Kris Baydalla-Galasso
Beginning a new exercise or activity routine can seem daunting – especially if you were in the service where physical activity was part of your every day routine. Whether time has slipped away and a few years of inactivity have caught up with you or a fitness plan is completely new, you can approach this in such a way that makes the transition easy and effortless.
Make a Plan – take yourself to your local dollar store and buy yourself a notebook. A composition book works well. Why? Whenever you start a new endeavor, it is helpful to write down your goals – short term and long term – and track your progress.
Create Fitness Goals – what do you want to accomplish? Whether your goal is to walk around the block five consecutive days or run a marathon before you’re 70, these should be personal and specific to you. Don’t let anyone else determine your personal fitness goals! Up until about three years ago, I was an avid gym rat who loved to lift weights. Some significant all-day-sickness during my first and second trimesters of pregnancy #4 put a quick end to my daily gym-going activities. Since then, between work and children, my gym-going has been sporadic at best and it has been almost two years since my last real workout. My current goal: locate sneakers. My next goal: drive to gym. It’s ok to start small. Really small.
Make Note of Your Starting Point – this ties directly into your goals. Three years ago, I could walk in and easily jog a 5K on the treadmill. For my new starting point – I am going to walk for 15 minutes and see how far I get. For Day 2, I am going to add 2 minutes and try to walk just a little faster. Knowing your starting point (and writing it down) helps you to measure your progress. Strength isn’t always measurable on a scale and it is easy to take for granted that you have made progress.
Pick an Activity that Fits – for me, what I love the most is weight lifting. Weightlifting is not for everyone, though. I worked with a personal trainer who preferred resistance bands and body weight exercises. Here is a brief list of ideas to help get you started:
Swimming – the perfect exercise, being in the pool engages your muscles, is great for your heart and puts next to no stress on your joints. Whether you have arthritis from life or trauma to your joints (I have an arthritic ankle thanks to a break 13 years ago – I still have two pins left in my right ankle joint), the weightless water activity can take the pressure of those joints and bones. Water is naturally resistant, so activities like water aerobics help burn additional calories with minimal impact.
Yoga – I keep telling myself that I’m going to get into yoga, but the more I try it, the less I think it is for me! However, it is a wonderful activity for my children, so we have started doing some Yoga poses before school and before bed as a way of calming and centering our thoughts. Yoga is low-impact and very gentle on the body. Movements tend to be slow and deliberate, poses held for extended periods to allow for a maximum stretch.
Pilates – if you are anything like me, you didn’t know that there was a difference between Yoga and Pilates. Pilates focuses on core strength and stability and is low-impact.
Bodyweight exercises – you have everything you need to start this workout. Climb the stairs – push up off of a wall. Slow-sit into a chair (squats). Try a plank – or slow crunches. Engage those abdominals!
Resistance Band Training – You don’t need a gym to take advantage of resistance bands. Most big-box stores have a fitness section and you are likely to find a variety of resistance bands to help get you started. They are a great way to add a degree of difficulty to an exercise that might start to feel easy.
Cycling – whether you want to dust off the bike in your garage or find a cycling studio, biking can be a great way to get the heart pumping without stressing out your joints. A slow starting pace can keep your exercise low-impact and you can build as you feel ready.
Walking – get a FitBit, lace up your sneakers and hit the sidewalk. Walk for 10 minutes and see how many steps that gets you, then add to it the next day. The best part – walking is free!
If you are still struggling on how to get started, you might benefit from purchasing a few sessions with a personal trainer. A personal trainer will be knowledgeable in what exercise and activity program might best fit your likes and lifestyle.
Activity is so important – and finding something that suits you is a big key to your success!
Have you had success in implementing a workout routine? We would love to hear what worked for you! Are you a personal trainer who would like to share some tips of your trade? Submit your story and send your ideas to [email protected].