Exercise for seniors

August 31, 2012

Cancer, Diabetes, Exercise, Health, Seniors

Studies conclude that regular exercise can help delay and even prevent certain diseases.

by Rick Barnabo — 

While talking about exercise with seniors, some of the objections I most often hear are: “It’s too late,” “It’s not safe” or “I have a chronic illness.” So, is it too late? Is it safe? Should you exercise with a chronic illness?

Research has shown that people of all ages benefit from physical activity. Growing older doesn’t mean you have to lose strength or the ability to perform everyday activities. Studies conclude that regular exercise can help delay and even prevent certain diseases.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), moderate exercise can improve the health of people who are frail or have diseases that accompany aging. Additionally, the psychological component is huge. Seniors who exercise regularly have reported feeling better in mind, body and spirit. Their attitude is generally more optimistic and confidence level higher. It’s not too late.

Safety first. As we age, our balance and flexibility are not what they were when we were younger, and our overall strength declines. It is important to start slowly. Don’t overdo it when starting out. Stay within your comfort level. This could mean beginning with a walk around the block or some simple stretches.

If you are already exercising and want to incorporate resistance training, light dumbbells with fewer repetitions may be a good starting point. Exercise with a partner if possible, as this will foster encouragement, feedback and safety.

Be consistent. Again, according to the NIH, older adults impede good health far more by not exercising than by exercising. And yes, you can make it safe.

Having a chronic illness does not automatically disqualify you from exercise. On the contrary, many diseases, including type 2 diabetes, require lifestyle changes that focus on weight loss and physical activity — provided there has not been an onset of complications.

For those with diagnosed osteoporosis, weight-bearing exercises are recommended two to three days per week. Exercise is connected with a lower occurrence of colon cancer in men and women, and breast cancer in women. Foremost, consult your doctor before starting an exercise program. Discuss the risks and benefits of any program you are contemplating, and follow their recommendations.


Rick Barnabo is a personal fitness trainer in Prescott, Ariz. He is certified by the American College of Sports Medicine and specializes in functional fitness and weight management., 928-848-0002 or

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 27, Number 5, October/November 2008.

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