Reasonable Senior Fitness Goals That In Home Care Agencies Recommend

May 6, 2015

Members of Riverview Highlands Senior Living apartments’ exercise class got a shock when they learned the age of their instructor: 100. Twice weekly, Lauretta Taggart leads 15 to 20 others in the chair exercises that keep them flexible and strong. Most had put her age in the 80s before she came clean as a centenarian. Upon hearing of her instructor’s recent birthday, one student exclaimed, “Oh my God, she’s 100 years old. I just about died when I found out. I’m 80 and she exhausts me.”

While seniors don’t need to lead exercise classes to stay healthy, researchers have discovered that that exercise over 70, 80 and even 90 helps to:

  • Reduce risk of disease
  • Maintain strength to lift and play with grandchildren
  • Improve golf, tennis, hiking and any other hobbies
  • Maintain the muscle power required to carry out daily activities
  • Improve joint mobility, decreasing pain
  • Improve mood

With all of these benefits, it’s no wonder fitness organizations like Silver Sneakers, American Senior Fitness Association and National Senior Games Association promoting healthy and active lifestyles for seniors have emerged!

Ten to twenty years ago, seniors, their families and doctors believed that losing speed, strength and flexibility was just a natural part of the aging process. New research indicates that these losses result more from a sedentary lifestyle than any deterioration due to aging. Just as we’ve come to accept a “use it or lose it” approach to keeping our minds active and powerful, adopting a “move it or lose it mentality about our physical health and strength will keep us in top form.

Beginning, Short-Term Senior Fitness Goals

A new buzzword for seniors is “functional fitness,” which refers to the strength, endurance, flexibility, cardiovascular efficiency and mobility required to carry out daily activities. All of these skills allow seniors to maintain independence and a fulfilling lifestyle, two key aims for people of any age. Neither doctors, in home care agencies, lifestyle gurus nor trainers recommend seniors strive to become body builders or top athletes. Maintaining strength, mobility and flexibility is plenty.

The following goals, recommended by the U.S. government’s National Institutes of Health, start seniors on the path toward functional fitness. Designed for those who currently have a low level of activity, they work best when written down. While they may seem simple, taking these first steps can be the most difficult part and should be applauded. As Benjamin Franklin said, “Once begun, half done.”

The NIH recommends seniors initially resolve to:

  • Become more active; walk around the block
  • Find senior exercise classes nearby like Silver Sneakers, your local senior center, church, community or fitness center.
  • Get an exercise buddy and commit to meeting two to three times each week
  • Get the right walking shoes and clothes
  • Create an exercise schedule that mixes exercising alone, with a buddy and at a facility

Once seniors begin this program, find they enjoy the socialization, fresh air and new experiences. Remember, it’s also important to consult with your physician prior to beginning and setting fitness goals!

Create Long-Term Goals

Once you or your loved one is doing the above regularly (or if you are already doing the above), consider tackling some more rigorous long-term goals. These recommendations again come from the National Institute of Health.

  • In six months, I will have reduced my blood pressure by ____________
  • By next summer, I will be able to play hide and seek with the grandchildren.
  • In one year, I will be walking/biking 15 miles each week

Ambitious seniors may even want to consider these recommendations from The American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association.

  • Strength training: 2X per week using one exercise of each muscle group: chest shoulders, arms and abdominal muscles. Lift weights 8 to 15 times
  • Cardio: 30 minutes each day: walking, bicycling, water aerobics or exercise classes

Exercise experts promise that you will notice a change in your energy level, appearance and even your mood within 6 to 10 weeks

Obstacles to Senior Fitness

Getting into the exercise habit becomes a challenge when you or the senior you’re caring for missed the huge exercise movement of the 1980s. Some American seniors grew up in a time when exercise just for fitness and improved mood was seen as an indulgence. The very existence of whole lines of clothing strictly for exercise baffles them. Expect resistance and a slow shift to new exercise habits.

Some seniors, too, can be concerned about falling while walking or participating in exercise classes. Again, make sure you consult a physician to ensure you’re your exercise program is at a safe level for your condition and any limitations you might have. When in home care agencies place a caregiver, they will ask whether exercise is involved and carefully choose someone willing to walk, play sports or drive to a fitness facility. Having company while exercising provides both the incentive and security one needs to create new, healthy habits.

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About the Author

Doug Breuer is co-founder of and has worked in senior care for the last 9 years for the State of Oregon. From investigating cases of elder abuse to managing the delivery of long term care to residents of Central Oregon, Doug has been involved in all aspects of senior care.

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