Exercise and Seniors
If you are having any symptoms or have any questions, please call 811 to speak with a registered nurse 24 hours a day.
Is it safe for me to exercise?
It is safe for most adults older than 65 years of age to exercise. Even patients who have chronic illnesses such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and arthritis can exercise safely. Many of these conditions are improved with exercise. If you are not sure if exercise is safe for you or if you are currently inactive, contact your healthcare provider.
How do I get started?
It is important to wear loose, comfortable clothing and well-fitting, sturdy shoes. Your shoes should have a good arch support, and an elevated and cushioned heel to absorb shock. If you are not already active, begin slowly. Start with exercises that you are already comfortable doing. Starting slowly makes it less likely that you will injure yourself. Starting slowly also helps prevent soreness. The saying “no pain, no gain” is not true for older or elderly adults. You do not have to exercise at a high intensity to get most health benefits. For example, walking is an excellent activity to start with. As you become used to exercising, or if you are already active, you can slowly increase the intensity of your exercise program.
What type of exercise should I do?
There are several types of exercise that you should do. It is recommended to take part in at least 2.5 hours of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity each week. Spread out the activities into sessions of 10 minutes or more. Examples are walking, swimming and bicycling. You should also do resistance (also called strength training) 2 days per week. Warm up for 5 minutes before each exercise session. Walking slowly and then stretching are good warm-up activities. You should also cool down with more stretching for 5 minutes when you finish exercising. Cool down longer in warmer weather. Exercise is only good for you if you are feeling well. Wait to exercise until you feel better if you have a cold, the flu or another illness. If you miss exercise for more than 2 weeks, be sure to start slowly again.
When should I contact my healthcare provider?
If your muscles or joints are sore the day after exercising, you may have done too much. Next time, exercise at a lower intensity. If the pain or discomfort persists, you should contact your healthcare provider. You should also contact your healthcare provider if you have any of the following symptoms while exercising:
- Chest pain or pressure
- Trouble breathing or excessive shortness of breath
- Light-headedness or dizziness
- Difficulty with balance
What are some specific exercises I can do?
The following are some simple strength exercises that you can do at home. Each exercise should be done 8 to 10 times for 2 sets. Remember to:
- Complete all movements in a slow, controlled fashion.
- Don’t hold your breath.
- Stop if you feel pain.
- Stretch each muscle after your workout.
Place hands flat against the wall. Slowly lower body to the wall. Push body away from wall to return to starting position.
Begin by sitting in the chair. Lean slightly forward and stand up from the chair. Try not to favor one side or use your hands to help you.
Hold a weight in each hand with your arms at your sides. Bending your arms at the elbows, lift the weights to your shoulders and then lower them to your sides.
Hold a weight in each hand with your arms at your side. Shrug your shoulders up toward your ears and then lower them back down.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness
Prince Edward Island Department of Family and Human Services
Public Health Agency of Canada
Promoting and Prescribing Exercise for the Elderly by RJ Nied, M.D., and B Franklin, Ph.D. (02/01/02, http://www.aafp.org/afp/20020201/419.html )