There are a lot of myths circulating out there about seniors and exercise. Some people say seniors shouldn’t be exercising at all, while others say that they should only do gentle forms of exercise like yoga.
It’s time to set the record straight and separate fact from fiction. Listed below are five of the biggest senior fitness myths that you need to stop believing today.
1. It’s Too Late to Start
Some people mistakenly believe that, after a certain age, it’s too late for them to start exercising. Some people may have even been told that they should avoid exercise because the risk of injury is too great.
In reality, the risk of injury is like greater among sedentary people than it among active individuals. Think about it — who’s going to be able to bounce back quicker after experiencing a fall or a bout of the flu? Someone who’s been exercising regularly, or someone who hasn’t?
While it’s true that, if you haven’t exercised in decades, you shouldn’t jump right into a Crossfit class, there’s no reason for you to avoid working out altogether.
You’ll most likely have to start slow with modified exercises, but, with time and practice, you should be able to work your way up to a healthy, consistent workout routine.
2. Lifting Weights is Dangerous
In the same way that many people believe exercise, in general, is dangerous for seniors, many people are also under the impression that weightlifting, in particular, is not safe for older adults.
Again, context matters. If you’ve never lifted weights before, you shouldn’t try to start by picking up a pair of 50-pound dumbbells. But, that doesn’t mean you need to shy away from weights altogether.
In fact, resistance training is one of the best things you can do to maintain your muscle mass and prevent bone density loss as you age. Resistance training has also been shown to increase longevity and quality of life.
3. Exercise Aggravates Joint Pain
For seniors who struggle with arthritis, the idea of working out regularly might seem laughable. They may also believe that exercise will make their pain worse.
In reality, exercise has been shown to improve joint pain, especially among people who have arthritis. This is because exercising improves blood flow. This, in turn, helps reduce inflammation and improves the overall function of your joints.
If you suffer from arthritis, there may be a bit of a hump that you have to get over when you first start working out — meaning that your pain may get a bit worse before it gets better as your muscles adjust to regular exercise. However, if you stick with it, you’ll most likely find that you feel better and more mobile than you did before.
4. Exercise Has to be Vigorous to Count
Some people are also of the mind that, in order for their workouts to count, they need to leave them shaking and drenched in sweat. If working out at this intensity isn’t possible for you, that doesn’t mean you should swear off exercise altogether.
You can reap just as many benefits from doing gentle exercise regularly as you can from doing more vigorous forms.
There are many advantages for seniors taking up yoga, pilates, Tai Chi, and other low-impact forms of exercise.
Remember, all forms of movement count.
5. It’s Impossible for People with Mobility Limitations to Workout
Some people also believe that, because they experience mobility limitations — they use a wheelchair or cane, for example — they can’t exercise.
Of course, if this is the case for you, there are certain forms of exercise that may be off-limits. But, that doesn’t mean all types of exercise are off the table.
There are a number of fitness classes geared toward seniors and people with limited mobility, including chair yoga, chair Tai Chi, and chair aerobics. Many water-based forms of exercise — water aerobics, swimming, etc. — are accessible to people with physical disabilities.
As you can see, age definitely does not prevent you from working out regularly. Exercise is essential for overall health, and there are tons of options available for seniors, including those with disabilities.