As we age, fatigue, nagging aches and pains, and chronic health problems can become barriers to regular exercise. But it’s just as important to maintain an exercise routine (or start a new one) at age 65 as it is at age 35. Whether you’re new to exercise or a regular gym rat who could use a reminder, here are some simple tips to keep in mind.
- Don’t omit the strength training.
Muscle mass is lost at the rate of 3%–8% per decade after age 30. Bone formation also decreases with age. Weight training can prevent bone damage as well as improve balance, strength and muscle mass. This can have the wonderful benefit of making everything you do, from walking to dancing to bending over, feel easier and more steady. It will also lower your risk of injury. That said, if you have functional or cognitive impairments that prevent you from being able to perform some tasks or activities safely, discuss with your doctor before beginning any weight training activity.
- Watch for interference from injuries, other non-cancer health concerns or medications.
Even though you may be through your cancer treatment and feeling good on the other side, don’t forget to watch out for other disease states that can affect your ability to exercise. Heart conditions, diabetes, old fractures and sprains, back or hip injury, medication interactions, and asthma top the list of conditions that may interfere with exercise, regardless of your age. Consult with your doctor before beginning any exercise routine.
- Get enough sleep.
You’ve probably heard this before….sleep is important to nearly every aspect of your health! Research indicates that higher sleep quality is associated with higher levels of physical activity. This makes sense: you’re not going to feel energized to work out and benefit from all the gains that come with it if you’re exhausted. Because many changes and repairs of cell damage in the body happen during rest, it is critical that you give your body a chance to recover day over day, and that means getting the proper amount of sleep (including napping when you feel tired!). This, coupled with eating a nutrient-dense diet, sets you up for exercise success.
- Find an exercise partner.
Everything is more fun when you have someone to do it with! A training partner can help you pass the time, keep to your exercise schedule, and provide support in the event of an injury. If you are single or if your spouse is unable to join you, check with your local senior center to see if you can be matched with a like-minded and like-abled exercise buddy.
Read more on the science behind exercise, and get practical suggestions in PCF’s guide, The Science of Living Well, Beyond Cancer. Request a free copy.