Deciding to become physically active

Drink water before, during, and after your workout session.

by NIH

Deciding to become physically active can be one of the best things you can do for your health. Exercise and physical activity are not only great for your mental and physical health, but they can help keep you independent as you age. Now, let’s talk about getting started.

How Much Activity Do Older Adults Need?

According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (PDF, 14.5M) you should do at least 150 minutes (2 ½ hours) a week of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, like brisk walking or fast dancing. Being active at least 3 days a week is best, but doing anything is better than doing nothing at all. You should also do muscle-strengthening activities, like lifting weights or doing sit-ups, at least 2 days a week. The Physical Activity Guidelines also recommend that as part of your weekly physical activity you combine multiple components of exercises. For example, try balance training as well as aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities. If you prefer vigorous-intensity aerobic activity (like running), aim for at least 75 minutes a week.

How Older Adults Can Get Started with Exercise

Exercise and physical activity are great for your mental and physical health and help keep you independent as you age. Here are a few things you may want to keep in mind when beginning to exercise.

Start Slowly When Beginning Exercise

The key to being successful and safe when beginning a physical activity routine is to build slowly from your current fitness level. Over-exercising can cause injury, which may lead to quitting. A steady rate of progress is the best approach.

To play it safe and reduce your risk of injury:

Begin your exercise program slowly with low-intensity exercises.

Warm up before exercising and cool down afterward.

Pay attention to your surroundings when exercising outdoors.

Drink water before, during, and after your workout session, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Play catch, kickball, basketball, or soccer.

Wear appropriate fitness clothes and shoes for your activity.

If you have specific health conditions, discuss your exercise and physical activity plan with your health care provider.

Even the best intentions to exercise can fall by the wayside when obstacles and challenges get in the way. However, there are ways to get past them! Check out these tips for overcoming exercise barriers and fitting exercise into your routine.

Exercise first thing in the morning. You are more likely to exercise if it’s a convenient part of your day. Try combining physical activity with a daily task you already do.

Keep it fun and interesting. Do things you enjoy and try new activities to keep things exciting.

Fit physical activity into your budget using items you already have at home. Exercise doesn’t have to be expensive. Wear comfortable, non-skid shoes for walking and use items you already have, like soup cans or water bottles, for strength exercises.

Give yourself a boost of energy. Regular, moderate physical activity can help manage stress, reduce fatigue, and increase your energy and stamina.

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