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Tips To Motivate Older Adults To Exercise

Prioritizing an active lifestyle is paramount for one’s overall well-being, especially as we age. Working with seniors, our geriatric care team can vouch for the importance of taking a holistic approach where care is not limited to logistics, like getting a senior to their doctor’s appointments, picking up their medications, ensuring their legal and financial documents are in order, and having a plan in place for emergencies. Tackling physical and mental well-being in a proactive way to prevent illnesses, cognitive decline, and isolation from occurring or worsening plays just as big of a role in providing care for overall wellbeing and quality of life. For this, regular physical activity is simply crucial.


The issue is that incorporating exercise into one’s life can be easier said than done, especially as we get older. Mobility issues, chronic pain, or lack of habit can all come into play making it difficult to stick to an active routine. This article aims to provide caregivers and adult children/relatives of elderly individuals with straightforward and practical tips to seamlessly incorporate exercise into their daily lives. These tips are backed by scientific evidence, ensuring a holistic approach to maintaining physical health in older adults.


  1. Recognize the Benefits of Exercise:

Understand the multitude of advantages that regular exercise offers older adults. Many health problems that are associated with aging are made much worse by a sedentary lifestyle. This includes things like bone density problems, back and neck pain, joint pain, a lack of flexibility, fatigue, and more. From improved cardiovascular health to enhanced cognitive function, exercise plays a pivotal role in promoting physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Something important to keep in mind is that, by reaping these benefits, older adults can perform daily tasks for themselves and ensure their independence for much longer.


2. Make it social:

Working towards a fitness goal or sticking to a routine is easier to stick to and more enjoyable when it’s tied to other people we like. If you help care for an aging parent or loved one and would like to encourage them to be more active, consider taking on the challenge with them. Set a date to start and keep it simple. For example, “Let’s start going on walks on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays before work”. You can also make exercise a social activity by encouraging participation in group classes, walking clubs, or community events. Social interactions contribute to emotional well-being and solidify the commitment. It shifts one’s thinking from, “I should do more yoga” to “I have a yoga class to attend twice a week at 6:00 pm”.


3. Keep it doable:

Seniors don’t require laborious amounts of exercise if their goal is to simply maintain their body and stay in good health. If an older person is mostly sedentary, our intuition might dictate that we prescribe a total lifestyle overhaul that includes daily workouts to compensate. In truth, taking on too much can be overwhelming and is the reason many people quit their fitness journey very quickly each time they start. Remember: something is better than nothing. Small bouts of activity can make a huge difference in how a person feels about themselves without draining their energy and leading to burnout. Incorporate physical activity into enjoyable daily routines, like gardening, going for a walk around the block while taking a phone call, or doing couch exercises while watching TV (these are great – look them up!)



4. Tailor Exercise to Individual Abilities:

Exercising should not be painful or overly uncomfortable. Particularly where there are physical limitations, it’s important to craft a personalized exercise plan based on the individual's health condition, mobility, and preferences. Consult with healthcare professionals to ensure the routine is both safe and enjoyable, catering to specific needs and restrictions.


5. Embrace Strength and Mobility Training:

Cardio, like jogging, is commonly thought of as the easiest, simplest form of exercising, but it is perhaps due to its simplicity and repetitiveness that we often pay no mind to the pressure it puts on the joints and lungs of an untrained person. Strength training is considered, by many, to be a more extreme form of physical activity, but it provides a variety and flexibility/moldability that makes it more fun and easier to stick to. Incorporate simple strength training exercises, such as bodyweight squats, resistance band workouts, or light weightlifting, to maintain muscle mass and bone density. Similarly, incorporate a few minutes of a mobility warmup or balance exercises to build up more natural movement capabilities and prevent injuries and falls in the long run. Gradual progression is key to avoiding strain and injuries.

PRO TIP: setting progression goals gives seniors a challenge to work towards and allow them to see how far they have come in their fitness journey!


6. Leverage Technology and Apps:

Explore apps and online resources designed for seniors, offering guided workouts, tracking tools, and virtual classes to make exercising at home more engaging. Most workouts found online can be done from the comfort of one’s home or back yard. In addition, you can look into some video games that entail dancing or movement to make fitness more fun.


Finally, encourage regular health check-ups. Maintain open communication with healthcare professionals and adjust exercise routines based on health status to ensure they align with the individual's evolving physical conditions. Remember – working out and physical therapy can be similar, but for seniors with injuries or mobility problems, guided PT is the way to go.


Keeping older adults active doesn't have to be complicated. If you would like some guidance with providing care to an elderly loved one, contact us about scheduling a free consultation call with our geriatric care management team.


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