When it comes to the benefits of exercise, it really is never too late to start – and that’s something we’ve known for years. A 2003 study tracked close to 10,000 women, aged at least 66 when the study began, for more than a decade. Those who changed their non-existent exercise routine to include just walking one mile a day cut their risk of death from all causes, including cancer, by almost 50 percent, while slashing their risk risk of heart disease by more than one third. What’s more, the participants gained as much protection as women who had been physically active before the study even began – proof that exercise is the kind of health care we should all be invested in.
The women in this study didn’t suddenly become bodybuilders or marathoners. Instead, they made realistic changes over time that still amounted to mild exercise totals. And you can do the same. Here are five tips for getting started.
1. Get Your Doctor’s Approval
First things first – before starting any fitness or exercise program, you should run it past your doctor first. It’s smart for anyone at any age, but if you’re in your golden years or have heart, lung or other health conditions, it’s a critical first step. Looping in your doctor means you’ll stay on top of things like medication updates. In many instances, it’s possible to control health conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes through weight loss, exercise and nutrition, to the point that you can come off certain medications. In cases like this, it’s important that your doctor understands what you’re doing to improve your health.
2. Start Slowly
If you’ve been inactive for any period of time, starting slowly is the best way to avoid injury, excessive muscle pain and fatigue. Don’t overdo it, and in the beginning, err on the side of not doing enough. It doesn’t serve you to train so hard you need two weeks to recover. Instead, start small and focus on building your endurance over time.
3. Focus on Frequency
If your goal is to walk a specific distance five days a week, put those sessions on your calendar and build them into your schedule so that they actually happen. In the beginning, you may only spend ten or twenty minutes training, and that’s fine. Work up to thirty minutes or so of exercise, but don’t push yourself too hard.
4. Find a Training Partner
It’s called accountability, and it’s what makes you more likely to stick with your training program. Whether you work out with a personal trainer, a spouse, a friend or with a group in organized fitness classes, having someone who expects you to show up can make a big difference.
5. Do Something You Enjoy
Swimming, walking, tennis, exercise machines, weights – find something you enjoy. Working with a personal trainer can be a good way of keeping your fitness program varied, but you can change up your daily activities easily enough on your own, too. If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed about getting started, a few sessions with a certified personal trainer may be a smart move.