As we age, our bodies need to stay more active to compensate for the loss of mobility and function. However, as a person nears or finally reaches retirement, exercise may be the last thing that he or she wants to do. But, it’s important to develop a healthy exercise regime. Incorporate these five strategies in your clinical practice to encourage physical fitness for seniors.
1. Make exercise fun
If you want to help senior adults get into shape physically, the key is to find a way to make exercise fun. This enables the senior adult to take part in exercise activities with genuine enthusiasm. So, the first step is to ask the senior what type of activities he or she finds enjoyable. Be sure to think outside the box: a short shopping trip or walk to the local park with a grandchild can be great forms of exercise. When the senior is having fun, you are much more likely to yield positive results.
2. Find a partner
Finding a partner makes a lot of sense as it gives the senior adult an opportunity for social interaction. It also allows for accountability. Both seniors will make sure the other won’t slack off, helping to drive consistent results.
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3. Set simple milestones
One of the worst things you can do when trying to encourage a senior to exercise is to set rigid goals too early. Keep it simple and set small milestones over time. That is, don’t overwhelm a senior with the idea of having to do a ton of work. The easier you make it for them to just relax and slowly but surely step things up, the more likely they are to actually keep at it.
4. Offer ample support
Ongoing physical fitness for seniors requires a lot of help and encouragement. Be sure to boost the senior’s confidence and help increase the belief that they can and will see results.
5. Start the workout schedule off slowly
Starting the exercise regimen slowly goes along with setting simple milestones and offering support. If a senior adult is enjoying an exercise activity, then start at one time per week. Be sure to provide positive feedback if the senior sticks with this routine. After a month or so, build it up to two times per week and continue to offer positive reinforcement. Then, after another month or two, step up the activity days to three times per week. As you build up the workout routine, always be cognizant of burnout and back off if the patient feels the exercise schedule is too much to handle.
Also, it’s a good idea to spend some time evaluating the present exercise regime. Over time, repeating the same activities can get boring. So, in addition to the above methods to promote physical fitness for seniors, offer a variety of ideas on new exercises to try.
Editor’s note: This post was originally posted on August 18, 2021 and updated on April 6, 2022.