I asked my doctor what fitness program was best, especially for the over-50 crowd. He gave me a very droll and honest answer: "The best fitness program is the one you will stick with." I couldn't help but think how true this is. No matter how much you spend or how good the program is, if it is not one you will stick to, it does you no good.
So how do you find the fitness program you'll stick to? Let's look at how your expectations, abilities, and attitude affect how well you stick to the fitness program that is right for you.
The first thing you need to look at is your expectations. What do you want from your fitness program? If you set your expectations too high, you may be setting yourself up for failure. FOr example, I have a friend who is a triathlete and trains very hard. She also realizes that, at age 57, she probably will not come in first. Her goal for her first event was to finish. As she has improved and competed in more events, she continues to challenge herself to improve her performance each time. It is best to start slowly and build up to a goal. For example, if you plan on starting a walking program, start slowly, one block at a time.
You need to choose a fitness program that is within your physical abilities. If you have medical problems that preclude certain activities, you need to eliminate them as choices for exercise. If you have had knee or hip replacement, running may be out of the question, but walking could be a perfect alternative. Perhaps you are very limited in your mobility, or even confined to a wheelchair. Look for a fitness program that is low impact and can be done from a chair or wheelchair. Look for a program called "sit and be fit" or any similar programs.
Why you want to start a fitness program can be just as important as actually starting the program. If you are sick and tired of being sick and tired, then you probably have the right attitude. If you are trying to impress someone or doing it because everyone else is, you may be setting yourself up to fail.
Best Bets For Fitness After 60
Walking is a great exercise for beginners. It is low impact, easily done almost anywhere, and does not require any special equipment other than well-fitting shoes. Follow this tutorial and get into a comfortable walking routine.
Riding a bike is a skill most of us learned as a child. It is a great cardiovascular exercise and can be done almost anywhere, but can be difficult in northern climates during the winter. Check out this story of rediscovering the joy of riding a bike.
If your knees are up to it, running is a great fitness activity. Like all new activities, it is best to start slowly and build up endurance. Perhaps running with a friend will help keep you motivated.
Other Exercise Plans for Seniors
A good, consistent exercise program has multiple health benefits, especially as you age. Our Guide to Exercise has advice on how to get started.
How to Keep Up MotivationIf you are a very social person who needs a lot of encouragement, running or walking may not be your best fitness options. Perhaps an aerobics class or golf would be more stimulating. Do it with a friend and challenge each other to keep going.
Regardless of what fitness program you're following, keep track of your progress. Keep a chart on the refrigerator with your progress towards your goals. Keep a picture of yourself there to remind yourself why you are doing this. Remember to reward yourself when you reach a goal. Take a vacation, spend a day at the spa, or buy a new outfit -- whatever it takes to keep you motivated.