Build up to all
exercises and activities gradually, especially if you have
been inactive for a long time.
Once you have
built up to a regular schedule, include these four types of
exercises, whether you use the examples here or others:
endurance, strength, balance, and stretching.
If you have to
stop exercising for more than a few weeks, start out at half
the effort when you resume, then build back up to where you
forward, always keep back and shoulders straight to ensure
that you are bending from the hips, not the waist.
If you have had a
hip replacement, check with your surgeon before doing lower
- To build
stamina, you can do specific exercises, like walking or
jogging, or any activity that raises your heart rate and
breathing for extended periods of time.
- Do at least
30 minutes of endurance activities on most or all days of
- If you
prefer, divide your 30 minutes into shorter sessions of
no less than 10 minutes each.
- The more
vigorous the exercise, the greater the benefits.
- Warm up and
cool down with a light activity, such as easy
shouldn't make you breath so hard you can't talk. They
shouldn't cause dizziness or chest pain.
- When you are
ready to progress, first increase the amount of time,
then the difficulty, of your activity.
- Stretch after
- Do strength
exercises for all your major muscle groups at least twice
a week, but not for the same muscle group on any 2 days
in a row.
increasing the amount of weight you use is the most
important part of strength exercise.
- Start with a
low amount of weight (or no weight) and increase it
- When you are
ready to progress, first increase the number of times you
do the exercise, then increase the wieght at a later
- Do an
exercise 8 to 15 times; rest a minute and repeat it 8 to
15 more times.
- Take 3
seconds to lift and 3 seconds to lower weights. Never
jerk weights into position.
- If you can't
lift a weight more than 8 times, it's too heavy; if you
can lift it more than 15 times, it's too light.
- Avoid holding
your breath while straining.
exercises may make you sore at first, but they should
never cause pain.
- Stretch after
- Add the
following modifications to your regularly scheduled
lower-body strength exercises: As you progress, hold onto
the table or chair with one hand, then one finger, then
no hands. If you are steady on your feet, progress to no
hands and eyes closed. Ask someone to watch oyou the
first few times,in case you lost your balance.
- Don't do
extra strength exercises to add these balance
modifications. Simply add the modifications to your
regularly scheduled strength exercises.
- Another way
to improve your balance is through "anytime, anywhere"
balance exercises. One example: Balance on one foot, then
the other, while waiting for the bus. Do as often as
exercises may help keep you limber.
exercises alone will not improve endurance or
- Do stretching
exercises after endurance and strength exercises, when
your muscles are warm.
- If stretching
exercises are the only kind of exercise you are able to
do, do them at least 3 times a week, up to every day.
Always warm up your muscles first.
- Do each
exercise 3 to 5 times at each session.
- Hold the
stretched position for 10 to 30 seconds.
- Total session
should last 15 to 30 minutes.
- Move slowly
into position; never jerk into position.
may cause mild discomfort, but should not cause
There are lots of
ways to increase your physical activity. Exercising at home
is just one of them, and we feature it here because it's
within the reach of most older people. You might decide to
follow Phyllis Wendahl's example, instead, and do something
Ms. Wendahl is 85
years old and lives in the small town of Bothell,
Washington. On the phone, she sounds much younger. She is a
widow and lives on her Social Security income, and, like
many older adults, she won't let her kids spoil her as much
as they would like to. She would rather do things on her
That's why, when
she was scouting around for a fitness club where she could
use strength-building equipment, she bargained the owner
down to a monthly fee that she felt she could afford - $25 a
month for unlimited use.
"Look, I know
that not everybody is as bold as I am about that kind of
thing," Ms. Wendahl told us. Nonetheless, she has some
advice for older adults who are thinking about going to a
fitness center: "They don't need to feel self-conscious
about going to the club. The owner of my club holds me up as
an example now."
Ms. Wendahl said that she has
always been active, but never as much as she is now. She began doing aerobic
exercises in her 70s, moved on to water aerobics, and most recently to
strength-building and stretching 3 times a week. She
lives on her own and drives herself wherever she needs to go. After 6
months of endurance and strength exercises, measurements showed that Mrs.
Wendahl was able to perform household tasks - carrying groceries, making
her bed, and transferring laundry - more quickly. She could also carry
"It has just done
me a world of good," she said of her physically active
lifestyle. "My family is so thrilled and proud of me," she
She wants older
adults who read this book to know that, when it comes to
exercise and physical activity, "there's always something
within someone's capabilities. There's no reason older
people need to be sitting in a rocking chair."