It’s Never Too Late to Start Exercising

by Dr. Stephen Sinatra
Filed Under: Heart Health, General Health
Last Reviewed 02/06/2014

Even with all the benefits that supplements and medication can provide, I frequently have to remind patients about the basics of good health—and that includes exercise. 

Inactivity is a prominent risk factor for many health problems, and even minimal amounts of regular activity can have immediate benefits. Plus, for seniors the benefits of exercise go far beyond good cardiovascular health, increasing strength and flexibility so you can stay independent in your senior years.
 
What type of exercise should you do? My answer is always the one that you will enjoy and stick with for the long-term—whether it’s walking, tennis, dancing, swimming or another activity you enjoy. My personal favorites are pilates and yoga, which are good for range of motion, flexibility, and strength.
 
But regardless of the type of activity you choose, here are some tips to get you started:
 
  • If you haven’t exercised in a long time and you have a medical condition such as osteoarthritis or cardiovascular disease, talk to your doctor about what kind of limits you may need to abide by. You don’t want to take on more than your body can handle. Also, consider having your feet checked for irregularities that require shoe inserts. 
  • Start slowly and pace yourself. Should you experience shortness of breath or pain in your chest or arms, see your doctor as soon as possible. If you feel ill, stop. If symptoms persist after 3–5 minutes of rest, seek medical attention immediately. Symptoms may occur up to an hour after exercising, so be mindful of how you feel as you cool down and resume your regular activities. 
  • The joints, ligaments, tendons, and muscles aren’t as forgiving as they were when we were younger, and they require an appropriate level of training. If you train with weights—even light ones—you must use correct form to avoid microtrauma and aggravation to joints. A personal trainer who is experienced in working with middle-agers and seniors can help with this. Long term, strengthening the muscles around ailing joints can help reduce pain. 
  • Warning signs that you may be doing too much exercise include light-headedness or dizziness, palpitations, jaw pain, tingling or numbness in the arms, a tight feeling in the lungs, and shortness of breath (being unable to carry on a conversation).

Now it’s your turn: What are your exercise goals?

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